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An Introduction to Learning
An Introduction to Learning
What Is Learning?
Classical Conditioning
Pavlov’s Basic Research Plan
Time for Some Terms
Nuts and Bolts of Classical
From Dogs to Triathletes:
Extending Pavlov
Yuck: Conditioned Taste Aversion
Little Albert and Conditioned
Emotional Response
Classical Conditioning:
Do You Buy It?
Operant Conditioning
The Shaping of Behavior
Common Features of Operant and
Classical Conditioning
Types of Reinforcement
The Power of Partial Reinforcement
Timing Is Everything:
Reinforcement Schedules
The Trouble with Punishment
Classical and Operant
What’s the Difference?
Learning and Cognition
The Power of Observational
Latent Learning
ATHLETES IN THE MAKING Palo Alto, California: It was the spring of 1999, and
Ivonne Mosquera was about to graduate from Stanford University with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. Math majors typically spend a lot of time manipulating numbers on
paper, graphing functions, and trying to understand spatial relationships—all activities
that draw on their sense of vision. But Ivonne had no memory of seeing an equation, a
number, or even a piece of paper. She had been blind since the age of 2, when doctors removed both of her eyes to arrest the spread of an aggressive cancer.
Blindness never stopped Ivonne from doing much of anything. Growing up in
New York City, she used to ride her bicycle across the George Washington Bridge as her father ran alongside. She went to school with sighted kids, climbed trees in the park, and studied ballet, tap, and jazz dance (Boccella, 2012, May 6;, n.d., para. 3). She
tried downhill skiing, hiking, and rock climbing. Now Ivonne was graduating from college
with a degree in one of the most rigorous academic disciplines, a great accomplishment indeed. Yet there were bigger things to come for Ivonne. In the next decade, she would become
a world-class runner and triathlete.
Meanwhile, just a few miles from the Stanford campus, a 10-year-old boy named
Jeremy Lin was finishing fifth grade and working on his basketball game. In the evenings,
Jeremy and his brothers would go with their father to
the nearby YMCA to run drills and shoot hoops late
into the night (Dalrymple, 2012). It was during this
period that Jeremy’s future high school coach, Peter
Diepenbrock, first caught a glimpse of the scrappy
young player. “He was very small,” Coach Diepenbrock
recalls, “but [had] just an incredible, incredible amount
of confidence.” Jeremy knew exactly how to play and
was determined to do so, regardless of his size. Even so,
no one could have predicted the “Linsanity” he would
be capable of inspiring across the globe.
At first glance, Ivonne Mosquera (now Ivonne
Mosquera-Schmidt) and Jeremy Lin don’t seem to have
much in common. But as you read their stories, you will
see how their relentless determination, work ethic, and
optimism led to their athletic achievements—Ivonne as
a runner and triathlete and Jeremy as a basketball player.
You will also see how learning changed their lives and
paved the way for their success. World Champion
Ivonne Mosquera-Schmidt
runs in the Capital of Texas
Triathlon on May 28, 2012.
Blind since the age of 2,
Ivonne has always been
extremely active. She has
danced across the stage
of New York City’s Lincoln
Center, climbed Tanzania’s
Mount Kilimanjaro, and
competed in over 25
He’s Got Game
Playing for the Los Angeles
Lakers in the 2014/2015 NBA
season, Jeremy Lin races
past Ryan Hollins of the
Sacramento Kings. Jeremy’s
basketball accomplishments
are the result of talent,
motivation, and extensive
learning. © Michael Goulding/The
Orange County Register/ZUMA Wire
Zoonar/P Gudella/Agefotostock; Thinkstock
Note: Quotations attributed to Ivonne Mosquera-Schmidt and Peter Diepenbrock are personal communications.
LEARNING OBJECTIVES After reading this chapter, you should be able to:
LO 1
Define learning.
LO 9
LO 2
Explain what Pavlov’s studies teach
us about classical conditioning.
LO 3
Identify the differences between
the US, UR, CS, and CR.
LO 10 Distinguish between primary and
secondary reinforcers.
LO 11 Describe continuous reinforcement
LO 4 Recognize and give examples of stimulus
generalization and stimulus discrimination.
LO 5
Summarize how classical conditioning is
dependent on the biology of the organism.
LO 6
Describe the Little Albert study and
explain how fear can be learned.
LO 7
Describe Thorndike’s law of effect.
LO 8
Explain shaping and the method of
successive approximations.
Ivonne, In Her Own Words
In Chapter 2, we described circumstances
in which learning influences the brain and
vice versa. For example, dopamine plays
an important role in learning through
reinforcement, attention, and regulating
body movements. Neurogenesis (the
generation of new neurons) is also
thought to be associated with learning.
In Chapter 3, we discussed sensory
adaptation, which is the tendency to
become less aware of constant stimuli.
Becoming habituated to sensory
input keeps us alert to changes in the
learning A relatively enduring change
in behavior or thinking that results from
habituation (hah-bi-chü-ā-shən) A basic
form of learning evident when an organism
does not respond as strongly or as often to
an event following multiple exposures to it.
stimulus An event or occurrence that
generally leads to a response.
Identify the differences between positive
and negative reinforcement.
and partial reinforcement.
LO 12 Name the schedules of reinforcement
and give examples of each.
LO 13 Explain how punishment differs
from negative reinforcement.
LO 14 Summarize what Bandura’s classic Bobo
doll study teaches us about learning.
LO 15 Describe latent learning and explain how
cognition is involved in learning.
What Is Learning?
LO 1
Define learning.
Psychologists define learning as a relatively enduring change in behavior or thinking
that results from our experiences. Studies suggest that learning can begin before we
are even born—prior to birth, a baby has already begun to single out the sound of his
mother’s voice (Kisilevsky et al., 2008). And learning may continue until our dying
day. But even though learning leads to changes in the brain, including alterations to
individual neurons as well as their networks, these modifications of behavior and
thinking are not always permanent.
The ability to learn is not unique to humans. Trout can learn to press a pendulum
to get food (Yue, Duncan, & Moccia, 2008); orangutans can pick up whistling (Wich et
al., 2009); and even honeybees can be trained to differentiate among photos of human
faces (Dyer, Neumeyer, & Chittka, 2005). One of the most basic forms of learning
occurs during the process of habituation (hah-bi-chü-ā-shən), which is evident when
an organism does not respond as strongly or as often to an event following multiple
exposures to its occurrence. This type of learning is apparent in a wide range of living beings, from humans to sea slugs (Chapter 6). An animal might initially respond
to a stimulus, which is an event that generally leads to a response, but with repeated
exposures, the stimulus is increasingly ignored and habituation occurs. Essentially, an
organism learns about a stimulus but begins to ignore it as it is repeated.
Animals Learn to Help
Army Specialist Antonio Ingram
gets a kiss from Emma, one of
the therapy dogs that works
with soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas
(Flaherty, 2011, October 29). Therapy
animals like Emma help ease the
stress of wounded veterans, abused
children, cancer patients, and others
suffering from psychological distress
(American Humane Association,
2013). The dogs are trained using the
principles of learning. AP Photo/
Researchers have studied learning using a variety of animals. The history of psychology is full of stories about scientists who began studying animal biology but then
switched their focus to animal behavior as unexpected events unfolded in the laboratory. These scientists were often excited to find the connections between biology and
experience that became evident as they explored the principles of learning.
Animals are often excellent models for studying and understanding human
behavior. Conducting animal research sidesteps many of the ethical dilemmas that
arise with human research. It’s generally considered okay to keep rats, cats, and birds
in cages to ensure control over experimental variables (as long as they are otherwise treated humanely), but locking up people in laboratories would obviously be
This chapter focuses on three major types of learning: classical conditioning,
operant conditioning, and observational learning. As you make your way through
these pages, you will begin to realize that learning is very much about creating associations. Through classical conditioning, we associate two different stimuli: for example,
the sound of a bell and the arrival of food. In operant conditioning, we make connections between our behaviors and their consequences: for example, through rewards
and punishments. With observational learning, we learn by watching and imitating
other people, establishing a closer link between our behavior and the behavior of
Learning can occur in predictable or unexpected ways. It allows us to grow and
change, and it is a key to achieving goals. Now let’s see how learning has shaped the lives
of Ivonne Mosquera-Schmidt and Jeremy Lin.
AN OMINOUS SMELL Ivonne is on her way to swim practice.
As she walks through the locker room and approaches the pool
entrance, she catches a whiff of chlorine. Immediately, her shoulders
tense and her heart rate jumps. The smell of chlorine gives Ivonne
the jitters, not because there is something inherent about the chemical
that causes a physical reaction, but because it is associated with something she
dreads: swimming.
“I’ve never been a strong swimmer,” Ivonne says. “I just survive in water.”
Submerging her ears in water, which is necessary when she swims the freestyle
stroke in triathlons, makes Ivonne feel disoriented. “I can’t hear what’s around
me,” she explains. “There aren’t sounds or echoes for me to follow.”
Imagine navigating a mile in the frigid ocean bordering Canada in the
Vancouver Triathlon, or plowing through choppy waves (not to mention dodging
pieces of trash) in the Hudson River in New York City’s triathlon. Now imagine
doing all of that swimming in the darkness. It’s no surprise that Ivonne feels a little
apprehensive about being in the water.
To understand why the smell of chlorine seems to evoke such a strong physiological response for Ivonne, we need to travel back in time and into the lab of a
young Russian scientist: Ivan Pavlov.
In Chapter 1, we described the theme
of nature and nurture, which examines
the relative weight of heredity and
environment. Some scientists who initially
studied the biological and innate aspects
(nature) of animals shifted their focus
and began to study how experiences and
learning (nurture) influenced these animals.
In Chapter 1, we discussed Institutional
Review Boards, which must approve
all research with human participants
and animal subjects to ensure safe and
humane procedures.
Suited Up to Swim
Ivonne and her guide prepare for the 2012
Paratriathlon World Championships in
Auckland, New Zealand. Ivonne is about
to begin the swim portion of the triathlon,
which takes place in the frigid ocean
waters along Queens Wharf. She wears a
wetsuit to keep her warm. The red string
just below her knee is the tether that
keeps her connected to the guide. G. John
Schmidt/Courtesy Ivonne Mosquera-Schmidt
show what you know
1. Learning is a relatively enduring change in
that results from our
2. Learning is often described as the creation of
, for example, between two stimuli or
between a behavior and its consequences.
a. habituation
b. ethical dilemmas
c. associations
d. unexpected events
The Killeen Daily Herald, Marianne Lijewski
Check your answers in Appendix C.
C HAP TE R 5 learning
C lassical Conditioning
Learning Through Classical Conditioning
Classical Conditioning
LO 2
A dog naturally begins to salivate when
exposed to the smell of food, even before
tasting it. This is an involuntary response
of the autonomic nervous system, which
we explored in Chapter 2. Dogs do
not normally salivate at the sound of
footsteps. Here, we see this response is
a learned behavior, as the dog salivates
without tasting or smelling food.
Tick Tick
Pavlov conditioned his dogs to salivate in
response to auditory stimuli, such as bells
and ticking metronomes. A metronome
is a device that musicians often use to
maintain tempo. This “old-fashioned”
metronome has a wind-up knob and a
pendulum that ticks at various speed
settings. Modern metronomes are digital
and often come with additional features
such as adjustable volume. Perhaps
Pavlov could have used these features
to test different aspects of classical
conditioning.Galina Ermolaeva/
The son of a village priest, Ivan Pavlov (1849–1936) had planned to devote his life
to the church. He changed his mind at a young age, however, when he discovered
his love for science. Although he won a Nobel Prize in 1904 for his research on the
physiology of digestion, Pavlov’s most enduring legacy was his trailblazing research on
learning (Fancher & Rutherford, 2012).
Pavlov spent the 1890s studying the digestive system of dogs at Russia’s Institute of Experimental Medicine (Watson, 1968). One of his early experiments
involved measuring how much dogs salivate in response to food. Initially, the
dogs salivated as expected, but as the experiment progressed, they began salivating to other stimuli as well. After repeated trials with an assistant giving a dog
its food and then measuring the dog’s saliva output, Pavlov noticed that instead
of salivating the moment it received food, the dog began to salivate at the mere
sight or sound of the lab assistant arriving to feed it. The assistant’s footsteps, for
example, seemed to act like a trigger (the stimulus) for the dog to start salivating
(the response). Pavlov had discovered how associations develop through the process of learning, which he referred to as conditioning. The dog was associating the
sound of footsteps with the arrival of food; it had been conditioned to associate
certain sights and sounds with eating. Intrigued by his discovery, Pavlov decided
to shift the focus of his research to investigate the dogs’ salivation (which he
termed “psychic secretions”) in these types of scenarios (Fancher & Rutherford,
2012, p. 248; Watson, 1968).
Pavlov’s Basic Research Plan
Pavlov followed up on his initial observations
with numerous studies in the early 1900s, examining the link between stimulus (for example,
the sound of human footsteps) and response
(the dog’s salivation). The type of behavior
Pavlov was studying (salivating) is not voluntary, but involuntary or reflexive (Pavlov,
1906). The connection between food and
salivating is innate and universal, whereas
the link between the sound of footsteps
and salivating is learned. Learning has
occurred whenever a new, nonuniversal
link between stimulus (footsteps) and
response (salivation) is established.
Many of Pavlov’s studies had the
same basic format (Infographic 5.1).
Prior to the experiment, the dog had a
tube surgically inserted into its cheek
to allow for the precise collection
of saliva. When the dog salivated,
instead of the secretions being swallowed, they were emptied from that
tube into a measuring device so
Pavlov could determine exactly how
much the dog was producing.
Before conditioning
Dog salivates
automatically when
food is presented.
Credits: McDonald’s logo, © Graham Oliver/Alamy; Historic photo of Pavlov’s dog experiment, Science Source; French fries in a red box,
Shutterstock; Jack Russell terrier, Thinkstock; Bell, Thinkstock; Dog bowl, Thinkstock.
During his experiments with dogs,
Ivan Pavlov noticed them salivating before
food was even presented. Somehow the
dogs had learned to associate the lab
assistant’s approaching footsteps with
eating. This observation led to Pavlov’s
discovery of the process of classical
conditioning, in which we learn to
associate a neutral stimulus with an
unconditioned stimulus that produces
an automatic, natural response.
The crucial stage of this process
involves repeated pairings of
the two stimuli.
Explain what Pavlov’s studies teach us about classical conditioning.
Bell means nothing
to dog, so there
is no response.
Neutral stimulus
(ringing bell)
response (salivates)
Before conditioning
Neutral stimulus
No response
(stomach growls)
During conditioning
No response
During conditioning
In the process of conditioning,
bell is repeatedly played
right before dog receives
food. Over time, dog learns
that bell signals arrival
of food.
over time
Unconditioned response
(stomach growls)
Neutral stimulus
(ringing bell)
response (salivates)
repeated over time
After conditioning
Dog has now learned
to associate bell
with food and will
begin salivating
when bell rings.
Conditioned stimulus
(ringing bell)
After conditioning
response (salivates)
Conditioned response
(stomach growls)
Classical conditioning prompts learning
that occurs naturally, without studying
or other voluntary effort. And it happens
every day. Do you feel hungry when you
see a pizza box or McDonald’s “golden
arches”? Just like Pavlov’s dogs, we learn
through repeated pairings to associate
these neutral stimuli with food, and the
sight of a cardboard box or a yellow
“M” can be enough to get our stomachs
In Chapter 1, we discussed the
importance of control in the experimental
method. In this case, if the sound of
footsteps was the stimulus, then Pavlov
would need to control the number of
steps taken, the type of shoes worn,
and so on, to ensure the stimulus was
identical for each trial. Otherwise,
he would be introducing extraneous
variables, which are characteristics that
interfere with the outcome of research,
making it difficult to determine what
exactly was causing the dog to salivate.
In Chapter 1, we discussed operational
definitions, which are the precise ways
in which characteristics of interest are
defined and measured. Although earlier
we described the research in everyday
language, here we provide operational
definitions for the procedures of the
classical conditioning Pavlovian
Because Pavlov was interested in exploring the link between a stimulus and the
dog’s response, he had to pick a stimulus that was more controlled than the sound
of someone walking into a room. Pavlov used a variety of stimuli, such as sounds
produced by metronomes, buzzers, and bells, which under normal circumstances
have nothing to do with food. In other words, they are neutral stimuli in relation to
feeding and responses to food.
On numerous occasions during an experimental trial, Pavlov and his assistants presented a dog with a chosen sound—the tone of a bell, for instance—and then moments
later gave the dog some meat powder. Each time the tone was sounded, the assistant
would wait a couple of seconds and then offer the dog the meat powder. All the while,
its saliva was being measured. After repeated pairings, the dog learned to link the tone
with the meat powder. We know this procedure resulted in learning, because after several pairings the dog would salivate in response to the tone alone, with no meat powder
present. The dog had been conditioned to associate the tone with food.
Time for Some Terms
LO 3
Identify the differences between the US, UR, CS, and CR.
Now that you know Pavlov’s basic research procedure, it is important to learn the
specific terminology psychologists use to describe what is happening (Infographic
5.1). Before the experiment began, the tone was a neutral stimulus (NS)—something in the environment that does not normally cause a relevant automatic or reflexive
response. In the current example, salivation is the automatic response associated with
food; dogs do not normally respond to the tone of a bell by salivating. But through
experience, the dogs learned to link this neutral stimulus (the tone) with another
stimulus (food) that prompts an automatic, unlearned response (salivation). This
type of learning is classical conditioning, and it occurs when an originally neutral
stimulus is conditioned to elicit or induce an involuntary response, such as salivation,
eye blinks, and other types of reflex reactions.
US, UR, CS, AND CR At the start of a trial, before the dogs were conditioned or had
neutral stimulus (NS) A stimulus that
does not cause a relevant automatic or
reflexive response.
classical conditioning Learning process
in which two stimuli become associated
with each other; when an originally
neutral stimulus is conditioned to elicit an
involuntary response.
unconditioned stimulus (US) A stimulus that automatically triggers an
involuntary response without any learning
unconditioned response (UR) A reflexive, involuntary response to an
unconditioned stimulus.
conditioned stimulus (CS) A previously
neutral stimulus that an organism learns to
associate with an unconditioned stimulus.
conditioned response (CR) A learned
response to a conditioned stimulus.
acquisition The initial learning phase in
both classical and operant conditioning.
C lassical Conditioning
learned anything about the neutral stimulus, they salivated when they smelled or were
given food. The food is called an unconditioned stimulus (US) because it triggers an
automatic response without any learning needed. Salivation by the dogs when exposed
to food is an unconditioned response (UR) because it doesn’t require any conditioning
(learning); the dog just does it involuntarily. The salivation (the UR) is an automatic
response elicited by the smell or taste of food (the US). After conditioning has occurred,
the dog responds to the tone of the bell almost as if it were food. The tone, previously
a neutral stimulus, has now become a conditioned stimulus (CS) because it triggers
the dog’s salivation. When the salivation occurs in response to the tone, it is called a
conditioned response (CR); the salivation is a learned response.
pairings of the neutral stimulus (the tone) with
the US (the meat powder) occur during the acquisition or initial learning phase.
Some points to remember:
•The meat powder is always a US (the dog never has to learn how to respond
to it).
•The dog’s salivating is initially a UR to the meat powder, but eventually
becomes a CR as it occurs in response to the tone (without the sight or smell
of meat powder).
•The US is always different from the CS; the US automatically triggers the
response, but with the CS, the response has been learned by the organism.
Pavlov’s work paved the way for a new generation of psychologists who considered behavior to be a topic of objective, scientific study. Like many who would
follow, he believed that scientists should focus only on observable behaviors; his
work transformed our understanding of learning and our approach to psychological research.
Nuts and Bolts of Classical Conditioning
We have learned about Pavlov’s dogs and their demonstration of classical conditioning. We have defined the terminology associated with that process. Now it’s time to
take our learning (about learning) to the next level and examine some of the principles that guide the process.
LO 4
In Chapter 1, we described the scientific
method and how it depends on
objective observations. An objective
approach requires scientists to make
their observations without the influence
of personal opinion or preconceived
notions. We are all prone to biases, but
the scientific method helps minimize
their effects. Pavlov was among the first
to insist that behavior must be studied
Recognize and give examples of stimulus generalization
and stimulus discrimination.
would happen if a dog in one of Pavlov’s
experiments heard a slightly higher-frequency tone? Would the dog still salivate?
Pavlov (1927/1960) asked this same question and found that a stimulus similar to the
CS caused the dogs to salivate as well. This is an example of stimulus generalization.
Once an association is forged between a CS and a CR, the learner often responds to
similar stimuli as if they are the original CS. When Pavlov’s dogs learned to salivate in
response to a metronome ticking at 90 beats per minute, they also salivated when the
metronome ticked a little more quickly (100 beats per minute) or slowly (80 beats per
minute; Hothersall, 2004). Their response was generalized to metronome speeds ranging from 80 to 100 beats per minute. Perhaps you have been classically conditioned
to salivate at the sight of a tall glass of lemonade. Stimulus generalization predicts you
would now salivate when seeing a shorter glass of lemonade, or even a mug, if you
knew it contained your favorite drink.
STIMULUS DISCRIMINATION Next let’s see what would happen if you presented
Pavlov’s dogs with two stimuli that differed significantly. Believe it or not, the dogs
would be able to tell them apart. If you presented the meat powder with a highpitched sound, they would associate that pitch with the meat powder and salivate.
However, they would not salivate in response to low-pitched sounds. The dogs would
display stimulus discrimination, the ability to differentiate between a particular CS
and other stimuli sufficiently different from it. With enough training, Pavlov’s dogs
could differentiate among high and low tones (Watson, 1968). Similarly, someone
who’s been stung by a bee might only become afraid at the sight of bees (and not flies,
for example) because he has learned to discriminate among various flying insects. He
has only been conditioned to experience fear in response to bees.
EXTINCTION Once the dogs in a classical conditioning experiment associate the
tone of a bell with meat powder, can they ever listen to the sound without salivating?
The answer is yes—if they are repeatedly exposed to the sound of the tone without the
meat powder. If the CS is presented time and again without the US, the association
may fade. The CR decreases and eventually disappears in a process called extinction.
In general, if dogs are repeatedly exposed to a CS (for example, a metronome or bell)
without any tasty treats to follow, they produce progressively less saliva in response to
the stimulus and, eventually, none at all (Watson, 1968).
take note: Even with extinction, the connection is not necessarily gone forever. For example, Pavlov (1927/1960) used classical
conditioning with a dog to form an association between the tone of a bell and meat
C HAP TE R 5 Layland Masud
In Chapter 3, we introduced the concept
of a difference threshold, which is the
minimum difference between two stimuli
that is noticed 50% of the time. Here, we
see that difference thresholds can play a
role in stimulus discrimination tasks. The
conditioned stimulus and the comparison
stimuli must be sufficiently different to be
distinguished; that is, their difference is
greater than the difference threshold.
stimulus generalization The tendency
for stimuli similar to the conditioned
stimulus to elicit the conditioned response.
stimulus discrimination The ability
to differentiate between a conditioned
stimulus and other stimuli sufficiently
different from it.
extinction In classical conditioning,
the process by which the CR decreases
after repeated exposure to the CS in the
absence of the US; in operant conditioning,
the disappearance of a learned behavior
through the removal of its reinforcer.
C HAP TE R 5 learning
C lassical Conditioning
powder. Once the tone was associated with the salivation, he stopped presenting
the meat powder, and the association was extinguished (the dog didn’t salivate in
response to the tone). Two hours following this extinction, Pavlov presented the tone
again and the dog salivated. This reappearance of the conditioned response following
its extinction is called spontaneous recovery. With the presentation of a CS after a
period of rest, the CR reappears. The dog had not “forgotten” the association when
the pairing was extinguished. Rather, the CR was “suppressed” when the dog was
not being exposed to the US. Two hours later when the bell (the CS) sounded in
the absence of food (the US), the association reemerged; the link between the tone
and the food had been simmering beneath the surface. Let’s return to that refreshing
glass of lemonade—a summer drink you may not consume for 9 months out of the
year. It is possible that your CR (salivating) will be suppressed because of the process
of extinction from September to the end of May, but when June rolls around, spontaneous recovery may occur, and once again you are salivating at the sight of that
lemonade glass (the CS).
the acquisition phase, it is possible
to add another layer to the conditioning process. Suppose the tone of the bell has
become a CS for the dog, such that every time it sounds, the dog has learned to
salivate. Once this conditioning is established, the researcher can add a new neutral
stimulus, such as a light flashing, every time the dog hears the sound of the tone. After
pairing the sound and the light together (without the meat powder anywhere in sight
or smell), the light will become associated with the sound and the dog will begin to
salivate in response to seeing the light alone. This is called higher order conditioning
(Figure 5.1). With repeated pairings of the CS (the tone) and a new neutral stimulus
(the light), the second neutral stimulus becomes a CS as well. When all is said and
done, both stimuli (the sound and the light) have gone from being neutral stimuli to
conditioned stimuli, and either of them can elicit the CR (salivation). But in higher
order conditioning, the second neutral stimulus is paired with a CS instead of being
paired with the original US (Pavlov, 1927/1960). In our example, the light is associated with the sound, not with the food directly.
Humans also learn to salivate when presented with stimuli that signal the delivery
of food. Perhaps your nightly routine includes making dinner during television commercial breaks, and your mouth begins to water as you prepare your food. Initially,
Higher Order Conditioning Once an association has been made
through classical conditioning, the
conditioned stimulus can be used to
acquire new learned associations.
Here, when a conditioned stimulus (such
as a bell that now triggers salivation)
is repeatedly paired with a neutral
stimulus (NS) such as a flashing light,
the dog will learn to salivate in response
to the light—without food ever being
present! These multiple layers of learning
help us understand how humans form
associations between many different
stimuli. Jack Russell terrier: Thinkstock; Bell:
Thinkstock; Dog bowl: Thinkstock; Bulb: Shutterstock
the commercials are neutral stimuli, but maybe you have gotten into the habit of
preparing food only during those breaks. Making your food (CS) causes you to salivate (CR), and because dinner preparation always happens during commercials, those
commercials will eventually have the power to make you salivate (CR) as well, even in
the absence of food. Here we have an example of higher order conditioning, wherein
additional stimuli elicit the CR.
Classical conditioning is not limited to examples of salivation. It affects you in
ways you may not even realize. Think of what happens to your heart rate, for example, when you walk into a room where you have had a bad experience. See Table 5.1
on page 184 for some additional real-life examples of classical conditioning. Now let’s
observe how classical conditioning might apply to Ivonne’s experiences.
From Dogs to Triathletes: ­Extending Pavlov
Getting in the water has always made Ivonne uneasy, making her muscles tighten
and her heart pump faster. She experiences this physiological fear response (the
UR) because she feels disoriented when her ears, which she uses for navigation,
are submerged. Her disorientation would be considered an unconditioned stimulus (US). During the acquisition phase, Ivonne began to associate the smell of
chlorine (a neutral stimulus) with the disorientation she feels (US) while swimming. Every time she went to the pool, the odor of chlorine was in the air. With
repeated pairings of the chlorine smell and the disoriented feeling, the neutral
stimulus became linked with the US. Now, simply smelling chlorine evokes the
same physiological response she has when she feels disoriented in the water. The
chlorine odor went from being a neutral stimulus to a conditioned stimulus that
elicits the now conditioned response of her fear reaction.
Now let’s explore a more hypothetical situation. If Ivonne were to smell
dishes rinsed in a bleach solution or chlorine-smelling household cleaners, she
might have a CR, suggesting stimulus generalization has occurred. This explains how
we can react in ways that make no sense to us; Ivonne may wonder to herself why she
is reacting so strongly to those dishes.
Stimulus discrimination also applies to Ivonne’s example. A gym locker room is
filled with all sorts of odors: hair spray, shampoo, and sweaty socks, just to mention a
few. Of all the scents in the locker room, chlorine is the only one that gets her heart
racing. The fact that Ivonne can single out this odor even when bombarded with
other smells and sounds demonstrates her ability to differentiate the CS from other
It would be nice for Ivonne if the smell of chlorine no longer made her heart race.
There are two ways that she could get rid of this classically conditioned response. First,
she could stop swimming for a very long time, and the association might fade away
through extinction. But quite often avoidance does not extinguish a classically conditioned response, as the possibility of spontaneous recovery always exists. (Recovery in
this sense means recovering the conditioned response of fear, not the more familiar sense
of “getting better.”) And clearly, this approach is not practical for Ivonne.
The second option is to pair a new response with the US or the CS. For example,
Ivonne could practice relaxation skills and positive race visualization that includes a
successful completion of the swim, until swimming itself no longer triggers the anxiety. With this accomplished, the chlorine would cease to stir up anxiety as well. Or
Ivonne could gradually expose herself to the smell of chlorine while maintaining a
state of relaxation, thus preventing the learned anxiety and fear response. In Chapter
13, we present some techniques therapists use to help individuals struggling with
anxiety and fear.
Smells Like Chlorine
Although Ivonne has now completed
over 25 triathlons, she is not
particularly comfortable with the
swimming portion of the event. Just
smelling chlorinated pool water
makes her heart beat faster and
her muscles tense—physiological
responses resulting from classical
conditioning. How might this reaction
be eliminated? If Ivonne were to stay
away from the pool for some period
of time, the association between the
chlorine smell and the disorientation
she feels in the water may fade
through the process of extinction.
Michael S. Wirtz, Used with permission of
Philadelphia Inquirer. Copyright © 2013.
All rights reserved.
spontaneous recovery The reappearance of a conditioned
response following its extinction.
higher order conditioning With
repeated pairings of a conditioned stimulus
and a neutral stimulus, the second neutral
stimulus becomes a conditioned stimulus
as well.
C HAP TE R 5 learning
C lassical Conditioning
Yuck: Conditioned Taste Aversion
LO 5
You Asked, Ivonne Answers
Does the feel of water
always give you the
In Chapter 1, we introduced the
evolutionary perspective, which suggests
that adaptive behaviors and traits are
shaped by natural selection. Here, the
evolutionary perspective helps clarify
why some types of learning are so
powerful. In the case of conditioned taste
aversion, species gain an evolutionary
advantage through quick and efficient
learning about poisonous foods.
conditioned taste aversion A form of
classical conditioning that occurs when an
organism learns to associate the taste of a
particular food or drink with illness.
adaptive value The degree to which a
trait or behavior helps an organism survive.
biological preparedness The tendency
for animals to be predisposed or inclined to
form associations.
conditioned emotional response An emotional reaction acquired through
classical conditioning; process by which
an emotional reaction becomes associated
with a previously neutral stimulus.
Summarize how classical conditioning is dependent
on the biology of the organism.
Have you ever experienced food poisoning? After falling ill from something you ate,
whether it was sushi, uncooked chicken, or tainted peanut butter, you probably steered
clear of that particular food for a while. This is an example of conditioned taste
aversion, a powerful form of classical conditioning that occurs when an organism learns
to associate the taste of a particular food or drink with illness. Imagine a grizzly bear that
avoids poisonous berries after vomiting all day from eating them. Often it only takes
a single pairing between a food and a bad feeling—that is, one-trial learning—for an
organism to learn its lesson. In the case of the bear, the US is the poison in the berries;
the UR is the vomiting. After acquisition, the CS would be the sight of the berries, and
the CR would be a nauseous feeling, as well as avoiding the berries in the future.
Avoiding foods that induce sickness has adaptive value, meaning it helps organisms survive, upping the odds they will reproduce and pass their genes along to the
next generation. According to the evolutionary perspective, humans and other animals have a powerful drive to ensure that they and their offspring reach reproductive
age, so it’s critical to steer clear of tastes that have been associated with illness.
How might conditioned taste aversion play out in your life? Suppose you eat a
hot dog a few hours before coming down with a stomach virus that’s coincidentally
spreading throughout your college. The hot dog isn’t responsible for your illness—
and you might even be aware of this—but the thought of eating one can make you
feel sick even after you have recovered. Physical experiences like this can sometimes
be so strong that they override our knowledge of the facts.
RATS WITH BELLYACHES American psychologist John Garcia and his colleagues
provided a demonstration of taste aversion in their well-known studies with laboratory rats (Garcia, Ervin, & Koelling, 1966). They designed a series of experiments to
explore how rats respond to eating and drinking foods associated with sickness. In one
study, Garcia and his colleagues provided the animals with flavored water followed
by injections of a drug that upset their stomachs. The animals rejected that flavored
drink thereafter.
The rats in Garcia’s studies seemed naturally inclined to link their “internal
malaise” (sick feeling) to tastes and smells and less likely to associate the nausea with
other types of stimuli related to their hearing or vision, such as noises or things they
saw (Garcia et al., 1966). This is clearly an adaptive trait, because nausea often results
from ingesting food that is poisonous or spoiled. In order to survive, an animal must
be able to recognize and shun the tastes of dangerous substances. Garcia’s research
highlights the importance of biological preparedness, the predisposition or inclination of animals (and people) to form certain kinds of associations through classical
conditioning. Conditioned taste aversion is a powerful form of learning; would you
believe it can be used to save endangered species?
didn’t SEE that coming
Rescuing Animals with Classical Conditioning
Using your newfound knowledge of conditioned taste aversion, imagine
how you might solve the following problem: An animal is in trouble in
Australia. The northern quoll, a meat-eating marsupial that might be described as a
cute version of an opossum, is critically endangered because a non-native “cane toad”
is invading its territory. Cane toads may look delicious (at least to the quolls, who eat
them right up), but they pack a lethal dose of poison—often enough to kill a quoll
in just one eating. Wherever the toads have settled, quoll populations have diminished or disappeared (O’Donnell, Webb, & Shine, 2010). The quolls are now in
danger of becoming extinct. How could you use conditioned taste aversion to save
Remember that conditioned taste aversion occurs when an organism EATING A POISONOUS
rejects a food or drink after consuming it and becoming very sick. To condi- TOAD CAN
tion the quolls to stop eating the toxic toads, you must teach them to assoTAKE A QUOLL!
ciate the little amphibians with nausea. You could do this by feeding them
non-poisonous cane toads containing a drug that causes nausea. A group of researchers from the University of Sydney recently used this approach with the quolls, and the
strategy turned out to be quite successful. Quolls that were submitted to conditioned
taste aversion were less likely than their unconditioned comrades to eat the poisonous
toads and die (O’Donnell et al., 2010).
Learning to the Rescue
Australia’s northern quoll (left) is
threatened by the introduction of an
invasive species known as the cane
toad (right). The quolls eat the toads,
which carry a lethal dose of poison,
but they can learn to avoid this
toxic prey through conditioned taste
aversion (O’Donnell et al., 2010).
left: Eric and David Hosking/CORBIS;
right: Chris Mattison/FLPA/Science Source
Similar approaches are being tried across the world. For example, the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service is using taste aversion to discourage endangered Mexican wolves
from feasting on livestock in New Mexico and Arizona (Bryan, 2012, January 28).
As you see, lessons learned by psychologists working in a lab can have far-reaching
Little Albert and Conditioned Emotional Response
LO 6
Describe the Little Albert study and explain how fear can be learned.
So far, we have focused chiefly on the classical conditioning of physical responses—
salivation, nausea, and increased heart rate. Now let’s take a closer look at some
of the emotional reactions classical conditioning can produce, through the pairing
of a stimulus with an emotional response. We call this a conditioned emotional
response: an emotional reaction acquired via classical conditioning.
The classic case study of “Little Albert,” conducted by John B. Watson and
Rosalie Rayner, provides a famous illustration of a conditioned emotional response
(Watson & Rayner, 1920). Little Albert was an 11-month-old baby who initially had
no fear of rats. When he saw the white rats scurrying about Watson and Rayner’s lab,
he didn’t seem the least bit scared. In fact, he was rather intrigued and sometimes
reached out to touch them. But all this changed when the researchers began banging a hammer against a steel bar (a US for a fear response in younger children) every
time he reached for the rat (Harris, 1979). After seven pairings of the loud noise and
the appearance of the rat, Little Albert began to fear rats and generalized this fear to
other furry objects, including a sealskin coat and a rabbit (Harris, 1979). The sight of
the rat went from being a neutral stimulus to a conditioned stimulus (CS), and Little
Albert’s fear of the rat became a conditioned response (CR).
In Chapter 1, we introduced two types
of research. Basic research is focused
on gathering knowledge for the sake of
knowledge. Applied research focuses
on changing behaviors and outcomes,
often leading to real-world applications.
Here, we see how classical conditioning
principles are applied to help save
C HAP TE R 5 184
Poor Albert
“Little Albert” was an 11-monthold baby who developed a fear of
rats through his participation in an
ethically questionable experiment by
John B. Watson and Rosalie Rayner
(Watson & Rayner, 1920). Watson
and Rayner repeatedly showed the
child a rat while terrifying him with a
loud banging sound. Albert quickly
learned to associate the sight of
the rat with the scary noise, and his
resulting fear of rats is known as a
conditioned emotional response.
Archives of the History of American Psychology,
The Center for the History of Psychology, The
University of Akron
Table 5.1 Real-Life
C lassical Conditioning
Nobody knows exactly what happened to Little Albert after
he participated in Watson and Rayner’s research. Some psychologists believe Little Albert’s true identity is still unknown (Powell, 2010; Reese, 2010). Others have proposed Little Albert was
Douglas Merritte, who at age 6 died of hydrocephalus (Beck &
Irons, 2011; Beck, Levinson, & Irons, 2009). More recently,
researchers have proposed that Little Albert was William Albert
Barger (later known as William Albert Martin), who lived until
2007 and reportedly did not like animals (Powell, Digdon, Harris, & Smithson, 2014). Did Barger’s distaste for animals stem
from his participation in Watson and Rayner’s experiment, or
was it the result of seeing a childhood pet killed in an accident?
Researchers cannot be sure, and we may never know the true
identity of Little Albert or the long-term effects of his exposure
to this type of unethical conditioning.
The Little Albert study would never happen today; at least, we hope it wouldn’t.
Contemporary psychologists conduct research according to stringent ethical guidelines,
and instilling terror in a baby would not be considered acceptable (and would not be
allowed at research institutions). However, it is not too far out to imagine a similar
scenario playing out in real life. Picture a toddler who is about to reach for a rat on the
kitchen floor. A parent sees this happening and shouts “NO!” It would not take many
pairings of the toddler reaching for the rat and the parent shouting “NO!” for the child
to develop a fear of the rat. In this real-world scenario, you would be hard-pressed to
find someone who would say the parent’s behavior was unethical.
Classical Conditioning: Do You Buy It?
Classical conditioning has applications in marketing and sales (Table 5.1). Some
research suggests that advertisements can instill emotions and attitudes toward product
brands through classical conditioning, and that these responses may linger as long as 3
weeks (Grossman & Till, 1998). In one study, some participants were shown pictures
Does Sexy Sell?
Justin Bieber models underwear for Calvin
Klein’s Spring 2015 ad campaign. Research
suggests that advertisements may instill
attitudes toward brands through classical
conditioning (Grossman & Till, 1998), but
how do these attitudes affect sales? Now
that is a question worth researching.
The Advertising Archives
of pleasant scenes (such as a tropical location or a panda in a natural setting) paired
with a fictitious mouthwash brand. Participants who were exposed to the mouthwash
(originally a neutral stimulus) and the favorable pictures (the US) were more likely
to retain a positive enduring attitude (now the CR) toward the mouthwash (which
became a CS) than participants who were exposed to the entire same set of pictures
paired in random order. In other words, the researchers were able to create “favorable
attitudes” toward the fictitious brand of mouthwash by pairing pictures of the mouthwash with scenery that evoked positive emotions (Grossman & Till, 1998). The study
did not address whether this favorable attitude leads to a purchase, however.
Do you think you are susceptible to this kind of conditioning? We would venture
to say that we all are. Complete the following Try This to see if classical conditioning
affects your attitudes and feelings toward everyday products.
Examples of Classical Conditioning
Marketers use classical conditioning to instill positive emotions and attitudes toward
product brands. List examples of recent advertisements you have seen on television
or the Internet that use this approach to get people to buy products. Which of your
recent purchases may have been influenced by such ads?
Pairing of Neutral Stimulus and US
Expected Response
Repeated pairing of products such as cars
(neutral stimulus) with celebrities (US)
Automatic response to celebrity (UR), such
as sexual arousal, heart racing, desire; pairing
leads to similar response, such as sexual arousal,
heart racing, desire (CR) to the product (CS).
Pairing of a dog lunging (US) at you on the street
(neutral stimulus) where you take your morning run
Automatic response to the dog lunging at you is
fear (UR); pairing leads to similar response of fear
(CR) to the street (CS) where the dog lives.
One pairing of seeing a car in the
rearview mirror (neutral stimulus) and
being rear-ended by that car (US)
Automatic response to the impact of the
collision is fear (UR); with one pairing, the
sight of a car approaching in the rearview
mirror (CS) elicits a fearful reaction (CR).
Repeated pairings of originally nonsexual objects
like shoes (neutral stimuli) and sexual activity (US)
Automatic response to sexual activity is sexual
arousal (UR), leading to an association of
sexual pleasure (CR) with the objects (CS).
Repeated pairings of a cologne (neutral
stimulus) with your romantic partner (US)
Automatic response to your feelings for your
partner is sexual arousal (UR); paired with the
cologne (CS), leads to sexual arousal (CR).
, animals and people are
2. Because of
predisposed or inclined to form associations that increase their
chances of survival.
The implications of classical conditioning extend far beyond salivating dogs. These are just a few examples of how this form of learning
impacts daily life.
try this
Remember that classical conditioning is a type of learning associated with automatic (or involuntary) behaviors. You don’t “learn” to go out and buy a particular
brand of mouthwash through classical conditioning. Classical conditioning can influence our attitudes toward products, but it can’t teach us voluntary behaviors. Well
then, how do we learn these types of deliberate behaviors? Read on.
show what you know
is the learning process in which two stimuli
become associated.
3. Hamburgers were once your favorite food, but ever since
you ate a burger tainted with salmonella (which causes food
poisoning), you cannot smell or taste one without feeling
nauseous. Which of the following is the unconditioned
a. salmonella
b. nausea
d. the hamburger vendor
c. hamburgers
4. Watson and Rayner used classical conditioning to instill fear in
Little Albert. Create a diagram of the neutral stimulus, US, UR,
CS, and CR used in their experiment. In what way does Little
Albert show stimulus generalization?
Check your answers in Appendix C.
C HAP TE R 5 learning
Operant Conditioning
Rising Star
Jeremy Lin appears on a 2012 cover
of Sports Illustrated. This rookie player
amazed the world on February 4 of that
same year when he came off the bench
and led the New York Knicks to victory
against the New Jersey Nets. It was the
first game of a Lin-led winning streak—
the beginning of “Linsanity.”
Sports Illustrated/Getty Images
THE JEREMY LIN SHOW Madison Square Garden, February 4, 2012:
The New York Knicks are playing their third game in three nights, hoping to
end a losing streak. But they are already trailing far behind the New Jersey
Nets in the first quarter. That’s when Jeremy Lin, a third-string point guard
who is dangerously close to being cut from his third NBA team, bounds off
the bench and leads the Knicks to a stunning victory. By the end of the game,
the crowd is going crazy, the Knicks players are laughing like giddy schoolboys, and
the Pearl Jam song “Jeremy” reverberates through the stadium (Beck, 2012, February
4; Dalrymple, 2012). One commentator perfectly sums up the state of affairs: “It’s the
Jeremy Lin Show here at Madison Square Garden” (Dalrymple, 2012, p. 24).
Jeremy Lin was an overnight sensation. People around the world were fascinated
by him for many reasons. He was the fourth Asian American player in NBA history, the
first Harvard graduate to play in the league since the 1950s, and previously a benchwarmer, not even drafted out of college (Beck, 2011, December 28). Everyone was asking the same question: Would Jeremy be a one-game wonder or something bigger?
Jeremy ended up leading the Knicks through a seven-game victory spree, the
highlights of which included scoring 38 points against the Los Angeles Lakers—
more points in that game than the Lakers’ mighty Kobe Bryant (, 2012,
February 10). Suddenly, Jeremy’s face was everywhere—on the covers of TIME
Magazine and Sports Illustrated (twice) and all over the Internet (Dalrymple, 2012,
p. xv). Where did this guy come from?
Like any of us, Jeremy is a unique blend of nature and nurture. He was
blessed with a hearty helping of physical capabilities (nature), such as speed, agility,
and coordination. But he was also shaped by the circumstances of his life (nurture).
This second category is where learning comes in. Let’s find out how. The Shaping of Behavior
We Did It, Coach!
Jeremy and his teammates
from Palo Alto High School
celebrate a victory that led
them to the 2006 state finals.
Pictured in the center is Coach
Peter Diepenbrock, who has
maintained a friendship with
Jeremy since he graduated.
Prior to Jeremy’s sensational
season with the Knicks,
Diepenbrock helped him with
his track workouts.
Keith Peters/Palo Alto Weekly
O perant Conditioning
When Jeremy began his freshman year at Palo Alto High School, he was about 5´3˝
and 125 pounds—not exactly NBA material. During his sophomore year, he learned
to dunk, and by senior year, he was over 6 feet tall and leading his team to victory in
the Division II state championship (Dalrymple, 2012; Tennis, 2012, February 20).
Jeremy was a big fish in a small pond—so
big that he didn’t need to work very hard
to maintain his level of success. However,
college recruiters did not observe anything exceptional in his strength or overall
athleticism (Viera, 2012, February 12).
This may be the reason Jeremy did not
receive any athletic scholarship offers from
Division I colleges, despite his basketball prowess and 4.2 grade point average
(McGregor, 2012, February 15; Spears,
2012, February 18).
Things changed when Jeremy found
himself in a bigger pond, playing basketball
at Harvard University. That’s when Coach
Diepenbrock says the young player began
working harder on aspects of practice he
didn’t particularly enjoy, such as weight lifting, ball handling, and conditioning. When
Jeremy was picked up by the NBA, his dili-
gence soared to a new level. While playing with the Golden State Warriors, he would
eat breakfast at the team’s training facility by 8:30 a.m., three and a half hours before
practice. “Then, all of sudden, you’d hear a ball bouncing on the floor,” Keith Smart, a
former coach told The New York Times (Beck, 2012, February 24, para. 14). Between
NBA seasons, Jeremy returned to his alma mater Palo Alto High School to run track
workouts with Coach Diepenbrock. He also trained with a shooting coach and spent
“an inordinate amount of time” honing his shot, according to Diepenbrock.
Jeremy’s persistence paid off. The once-scrawny scrapper, now 6´3˝ and 200
pounds (, 2015), is exploding with power and agility. According to
Diepenbrock, “He has gotten to the point where now, as far as the strength and the
athleticism, he is on par—or good enough—with veteran NBA athletes.”
You Asked, Ivonne Answers
What methods did you
use to learn in school?
has kept Jeremy working so hard
all these years? Psychologists might attribute Jeremy’s ongoing efforts to operant
conditioning, a type of learning in which people or animals come to associate their
voluntary actions with their consequences. Whether pleasant or unpleasant, the
effects of a behavior influence future actions. Think about some of the consequences
of Jeremy’s training—short-term results like seeing his free throw shot improve, and
long-term rewards like victory, fame, and fortune. How do you think these outcomes
might have influenced (and continue to influence) Jeremy’s behavior? Before addressing this question, we need to take a closer look at operant conditioning.
LO 7
Puzzle Box
Early psychologist Edward Thorndike
conducted his well-known cat
experiments using “puzzle boxes” like
the one shown below. At the start of
the experiment, Thorndike’s cats pawed
around haphazardly until they managed
to unlatch the cage and then eat the
fish treats outside the door. As the trials
wore on, the felines learned to free
themselves more quickly. After several
trials, the amount of time needed to
escape the box dropped significantly
(see graph below). Thorndike attributed
this phenomenon to the law of effect,
which states that behaviors are more
likely to reoccur if they are followed by
pleasurable outcomes.
Describe Thorndike’s law of effect.
of the first scientists to objectively study the
effect of consequences on behavior was American psychologist Edward Thorndike
(1874 –1949). Thorndike’s early research focused on chicks and other animals, many
of which he kept in his apartment. But after an incubator almost caught fire, his
landlady insisted he get rid of the chicks (Hothersall, 2004). It was in the lab that
Thorndike conducted his research on cats. His most famous experimental setup
involved putting a cat in a latched cage called a “puzzle box” and planting enticing
pieces of fish outside the door. When first placed in the box, the cat would scratch
and paw around randomly, but after a while, just by chance, it would pop the latch,
causing the door to release. The cat would then escape the cage to devour the fish
(Figure 5.2). The next time the cat was put in the box, it would repeat this random
Source: Adapted from Thorndike, 1898
to escape
Number of trials
operant conditioning Learning that
occurs when voluntary actions become
associated with their consequences.
C HAP TE R 5 learning
Radical Behaviorist
American psychologist Burrhus
Frederic Skinner, or simply B.
F. Skinner, is one of the most
influential psychologists of all
time. Skinner believed that
every thought, emotion, and
behavior (basically anything
psychological) is shaped by factors
in the environment. Using animal
chambers known as “Skinner
Boxes,” he conducted carefully
controlled experiments on animal
behavior. Nina Leen/Time & Life Pictures/
Getty Images
law of effect Thorndike’s principle
stating that behaviors are more likely to
be repeated when followed by pleasurable
outcomes, and those followed by
something unpleasant are less likely to be
reinforcers Consequences, such as
events or objects, that increase the
likelihood of a behavior reoccurring.
reinforcement Process by which an
organism learns to associate a voluntary
behavior with its consequences.
behaviorism The scientific study of
observable behavior.
shaping The use of reinforcers to guide
behavior to the acquisition of a desired,
complex behavior.
O perant Conditioning
activity, scratching and pawing with no particular direction. And again, just by
chance, the cat would pop the latch that released the door and freed it to eat the fish.
Each time the cat was returned to the box, the number of random activities decreased
until eventually it was able to break free almost immediately (Thorndike, 1898).
We should highlight a few important issues relating to this early research. First,
these cats discovered the solution to the puzzle box accidentally, while exhibiting their
naturally occurring behaviors (scratching and exploring). So, they initially obtained
the fish treat by accident. The other important point is that the measure of learning
was not an exam grade or basketball score, but the amount of time it took the cats
to break free.
The cats’ behavior, Thorndike reasoned, could be explained by the law of effect,
which says that a behavior (opening the latch) is more likely to happen again when
followed by a pleasurable outcome (delicious fish). Behaviors that lead to pleasurable
outcomes will be repeated, while behaviors that don’t lead to pleasurable outcomes
(or are followed by something unpleasant) will not be repeated. The law of effect is
not limited to cats. When was the last time your behavior changed as a result of a
pleasurable outcome?
Most contemporary psychologists would call the fish in Thorndike’s experiments
reinforcers, because the fish increased the likelihood that the preceding behavior
(escaping the cage) would occur again. Reinforcers are consequences that follow behaviors, and they are a key component of operant conditioning. Our daily lives abound
with examples of reinforcers. Praise, hugs, good grades, enjoyable food, and attention
are all reinforcers that increase the probability the behaviors they follow will be repeated.
Through the process of reinforcement, targeted behaviors become more frequent. A
child praised for sharing a toy is more likely to share in the future. A student who studies hard and earns an A on an exam is more likely to prepare well for upcoming exams.
SKINNER AND BEHAVIORISM Some of the earliest and most influential research
on operant conditioning came out of the lab of B. F. Skinner (1904 –1990), an
American psychologist. Like Pavlov, Skinner had not planned to study learning.
Upon graduating from college, Skinner decided to become a writer and a poet, but
after a year of trying his hand at writing, he decided he “had nothing to say” (Skinner,
1976). Around this time, he began to read the work of Watson and Pavlov, which
inspired him to pursue a graduate degree in psychology. He enrolled at Harvard,
took some psychology classes that he found “dull,” and eventually joined a lab in the
Department of Biology, where he could study the subject he found most intriguing:
animal behavior.
Skinner was devoted to behaviorism, the scientific study of observable behavior.
Behaviorists believed that psychology could only be considered a “true science” if it
was based on the study of behaviors that could be seen and documented. In relation
to learning, Skinner and other behaviorists proposed that all behaviors, thoughts, and
emotions are shaped by factors in the external environment.
LO 8
Explain shaping and the method of successive approximations.
on Thorndike’s
law of effect and Watson’s approach to research, Skinner demonstrated, among other
things, that rats can learn to push levers and pigeons can learn to bowl (Peterson,
2004). Since animals can’t be expected to immediately perform such complex behaviors, Skinner employed shaping, the use of reinforcers to change behaviors through
small steps toward a desired behavior (see Infographic 5.2 on page 190). Skinner
used shaping to teach a rat to “play basketball” (dropping a marble through a hole)
and pigeons to “bowl” (nudging a ball down a miniature alley). As you can see in the
photo on page 188. Skinner placed animals in chambers, or Skinner boxes, which
were outfitted with food dispensers the animals could activate (by pecking a target or
pushing on a lever, for instance) and recording equipment to monitor these behaviors.
These boxes allowed Skinner to conduct carefully controlled experiments, measuring
activity precisely and advancing the scientific and systematic study of behavior.
How in the world did Skinner get pigeons to bowl? The first task was to break the
bowling lessons into small steps that pigeons could accomplish. Next, he introduced
reinforcers as consequences for behaviors that came closer and closer to achieving the
desired goal—bowling a strike! Choosing the right increments for the behaviors was
crucial. If his expectations started too high, the pigeons would never be given any
reinforcers. If his expectations were too low, the pigeons would get reinforcers for
everything they did. Either way, they would be unable to make the critical connection
between desired behavior and reward. So Skinner devised a plan such that every time
the animals did something that brought them a step closer to completing the desired
behavior, they would get a reinforcer (usually food). The first reward might be given
for simply looking at the ball; the second for bending down and touching it; and the
third, for nudging the ball with their beaks. Since each incremental change in behavior brings the birds closer to accomplishing the larger goal of bowling, this method
is called shaping by successive approximations. By the end of the experiment, the
pigeons were repeatedly driving balls down miniature alleys, knocking down pins
with a swipe of the beak (Peterson, 2004).
Successive approximations can also be used with humans, who are sometimes
unwilling or unable to change problematic behaviors overnight. For example, psychologists have used successive approximation to change truancy behavior in adolescents
(Enea & Dafinoiu, 2009). The truant teens were provided reinforcers for consistent
attendance, but with small steps requiring increasingly more days in school.
It is amazing that the principles used for training animals can also be harnessed
to keep teenagers in school. Is there anything operant conditioning can’t accomplish?
Skinner boxes operant chambers
Musical Bunny
Keller and Marian Breland observe one of
their animal performers at the IQ Zoo in
Hot Springs, Arkansas, circa 1960. Using
the operant conditioning concepts they
learned from B. F. Skinner, the Brelands
trained ducks to play guitars, raccoons
to shoot basketballs, and chickens to tell
fortunes. But their animal “students” did
not always cooperate; sometimes their
instincts interfered with the conditioning
process (Bihm, Gillaspy, Lammers, &
Huffman, 2010). The Central Arkansas Library
System/Courtesy of Bob Bailey
THINK again
Chickens Can’t Play Baseball
Rats can be conditioned to press levers; pigeons can be trained to bowl;
and—believe it or not—chickens can learn to dance and play the piano
(Breland & Breland, 1951). Keller and Marian Breland, a pair of Skinner’s students,
managed to train 6,000 animals not only to boogie but also to vacuum, dine at a
table, and play sports and musical instruments (Breland & Breland, 1961). But as
hard as they tried, the Brelands could not coax a chicken to play baseball.
Here’s a rundown of what happened: The Brelands placed a chicken in a cage
adjacent to a scaled down “baseball field,” where it had access to a loop attached to
a baseball bat. If the chicken managed to swing the bat hard enough to send the ball
into the outfield, a food reward was delivered at the other end of the cage.
Off the bird would go, running toward its meal dispenser like a baseball BASEBALL? NO.
player sprinting to first base—or so the routine was supposed to go. But as PIANO? YES.
soon as the Brelands took away the cage, the chicken behaved nothing like a baseball
player; instead, it madly chased and pecked at the ball (Breland & Breland, 1961).
How did the Brelands explain the chickens’ behavior? They believed that the
successive approximations A
method of shaping that uses reinforcers
birds were demonstrating instinctive drift, the tendency for instinct to undermine
to condition a series of small steps that
conditioned behaviors. A chicken’s pecking, for example, is an instinctive foodgradually approach the target behavior.
getting behavior. Pecking is useful for opening seeds or killing insects (Breland &
instinctive drift The tendency for
Breland, 1961), but it won’t help the bird get to first base. Animal behavior can be
animals to revert to instinctual behaviors
after a behavior pattern has been learned.
conditioned, but instinct may interfere with the process.
O perant Conditioning
Learning Through Operant Conditioning
Table 5.2 Conditioning
Operant conditioning is a type of learning in which we associate our voluntary actions with
the consequences of those actions. For example, a pigeon naturally pecks things. But if every
time the pigeon pecks a ball, he is given a reinforcer, the pigeon will soon learn to peck the ball
more frequently.
B. F. Skinner showed that operant conditioning could do more than elicit simple,
isolated actions. Through the process of shaping, in which reinforcers are used to change
behaviors toward a more complex behavior, Skinner taught his pigeons to perform behaviors
involving a series of actions, like bowling and tennis. Today, shaping is used routinely by
parents, teachers, coaches, and employers to train all kinds of complex behaviors.
with seeds
Ball-pecking behavior increases.
Child refuses
to eat vegetables.
Now only the next step toward “tennis” is rewarded.
the ball
with seeds
for touching
Ball-pushing behavior increases.
the ball
the ball
the ball
Now, reinforced
for touching
After behavior has
been shaped through
the pigeon has learned
to play tennis.
After behavior
has been
shaped through
the child has
learned to eat
his vegetables.
Classical Conditioning
Operant Conditioning
The Association
Links different stimuli, often
through repeated pairings
Links behavior to its consequence,
often through repeated pairings
Involuntary behavior
Voluntary behavior
The initial learning phase
The initial learning phase
The process by which the conditioned
response decreases after repeated
exposure to the conditioned stimulus in the
absence of the unconditioned stimulus
The disappearance of a learned behavior
through the removal of its reinforcer
Spontaneous Recovery
The reappearance of the conditioned
response following its extinction.
Following extinction due to the
absence of reinforcers, the behavior
reemerges in a similar setting
These fundamental learning concepts apply to both classical and operant conditioning.
Collection of four raw grains (broomcorn millet, wheat, rye, and sunflower seeds), Shutterstock; Gray dove on a white background, Shutterstock; Ping pong; Shutterstock; Greek
salad, Shutterstock; Boy with salad; Thinkstock; Two pigeons play a version of ping pong, Yale Joel/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images; Pigeons © Zoonar GmbH/Alamy.
Pigeon is rewarded with seeds for pecking the ball.
Not every child is born loving the
healthy foods his parent offers.
But shaping can help a child learn
to eat his vegetables. Over a period
of time, reinforcement is given for
behaviors that are closer and closer
to this goal. Can you think of anything
that would be a reward for eating
vegetables? Praise or the excitement
of a contest may work in this way.
These examples involve researchers deliberately shaping behaviors with reinforcers in a laboratory setting. Many behaviorists believe behaviors are being shaped all of
the time, both in and out of the laboratory. What factors in the environment might
be shaping your behavior?
Common Features of ­Operant
and Classical Conditioning
Both operant and classical conditioning are forms of learning, and they share many
common principles (Table 5.2). As with classical conditioning, behaviors learned
through operant conditioning go through an acquisition phase. Jeremy Lin learned to
dunk a basketball when he was a sophomore in high school. The cats in Thorndike’s
experiments learned how to escape their puzzle boxes after a certain number of trials.
In both cases, the acquisition stage occurred through the gradual process of shaping.
Behaviors learned through operant conditioning are also subject to extinction—that
is, they may fade in the absence of reinforcers. A rat in a Skinner box eventually gives
up pushing on a lever if there is no longer a reinforcer awaiting. But that same leverpushing behavior can make a sudden comeback through spontaneous recovery. After a
rest period, the rat returns to his box and reverts to his old lever-pushing ways.
With operant conditioning, stimulus generalization is seen when a previously
learned response to one stimulus occurs in the presence of a similar stimulus. A rat is
conditioned to push a particular type of lever, but it may push a variety of other lever
types similar in shape, size, and color. Horses also show stimulus generalization. With
successive approximations using a tasty oat-molasses grain reinforcer, a small sample
of horses learned to push on a “rat lever” with their lips in response to the appearance
of a solid black circle with a 2.5-inch diameter. After conditioning, the horses were
presented with a variety of black circles of different diameters; demonstrating stimulus generalization, they pressed the lever most often when shown circles close in size
to the original (Dougherty & Lewis, 1991).
Stimulus discrimination is also at work in operant conditioning, as organisms can
learn to discriminate between behaviors that do and do not result in reinforcement.
With the use of reinforcers, turtles can learn to discriminate among black, white, and
gray paddles. In one study, researchers rewarded a turtle with morsels of meat when it
C HAP TE R 5 learning
O perant Conditioning
chose a black paddle over a white one; subsequently, the turtle chose the black paddle
over other-colored paddles (Leighty et al., 2013).
Stimulus discrimination even applies to basketball players. Jeremy Lin certainly
has learned to discriminate between teammates and opponents. It’s unlikely he would
get reinforcement from the crowd if he mistook an opponent for a teammate and
passed the ball to the other team. Making a perfect pass to a teammate, on the other
hand, would likely earn approval. This brings us to the next topic, positive reinforcement, where we start to see how classical and operant conditioning differ.
Types of Reinforcement
LO 9
Identify the differences between positive and negative reinforcement.
Good Work
Georgia preschool teacher Inyite (Shell)
Adie-Ikor with a bouquet of roses. She
is the recipient of the Early Childhood
Educator Award and a $10,000 check
from the international education
organization Knowledge Universe.
Awards and money often reinforce
the behaviors they reward, but every
individual responds differently to
reinforcement. Craig Bromley/Getty Images for
Knowledge Universe
operant conditioning, an organism learns to
associate voluntary behaviors with their consequences. Any stimulus that increases a
behavior is a reinforcer. What we haven’t addressed is that a reinforcer can be something added or something taken away. In the process of positive reinforcement,
reinforcers are presented (added) following the targeted behavior, and reinforcers
in this case are generally pleasant (see Infographic 5.3 on page 199). By presenting
positive reinforcers following a target behavior, we are increasing the chances that the
target behavior will occur again. If the behavior doesn’t increase after the stimulus is
presented, that particular stimulus should not be considered a reinforcer. The fish
treats that Thorndike’s cats received immediately after escaping the puzzle box and
the morsels of bird feed that Skinner’s pigeons got for bowling are examples of positive reinforcement. In both cases, the reinforcers were added following the desired
behavior and were pleasurable.
There were also many potential positive reinforcers driving Jeremy Lin. The
praise that his coaches gave him for passing a ball to a teammate would be an example
of positive reinforcement. Back in high school, Coach Diepenbrock rewarded players
with stickers to provide feedback on their performance (“kind of middle schoolish,”
he admits, but effective nonetheless). Jeremy averaged the highest sticker score of
any player ever. Did the sticker system have an effect on Jeremy’s behavior? Coach
Diepenbrock cannot be certain, but if it did, seeing his sticker-filled poster would
have served as a positive reinforcer for him to practice.
You may be wondering if this approach could be used in a college classroom. The
answer would inevitably depend on the people involved. Remember, the definition
of a positive reinforcer depends on the organism’s response to its presence (Skinner,
1953). You may love getting stickers, but your classmate may be offended by them.
Keep in mind, too, that not all positive reinforcers are pleasant; when we refer
to positive reinforcement, we mean that something has been added. For example, if
a child is starved for attention, then any kind of attention (including a reprimand)
would be experienced as a positive reinforcer. Every time the child misbehaves, she
gets reprimanded, and reprimanding is a form of attention, which the child craves.
The scolding reinforces the misbehavior.
have established that behaviors can be
increased or strengthened by the addition of a stimulus. But it is also possible to
increase a behavior by taking something away. Behaviors can increase in response to
negative reinforcement, through the process of taking away (or subtracting) something unpleasant. Skinner used negative reinforcement to shape the behavior of his
rats. The rats were placed in Skinner boxes with floors that delivered a continuous
mild electric shock—except when they pushed on a lever. The animals would begin
the experiment scampering around the floors to escape the electric current, but every
once in a while they would accidentally hit the lever and turn off the current. Eventually, they learned to associate pushing the lever with the removal of the unpleasant
stimulus (the mild electric shock). After several trials, the rats would push the lever
immediately, reducing their shock time.
Think about some examples of negative reinforcement in your own life. If you try
to drive your car without your seat belt, does your car make an annoying beeping sound?
If so, the automakers have employed negative reinforcement to increase your use of seat
belts. The beeping provides an annoyance (an unpleasant stimulus) that prompts most
people to put on their seat belts (the desired behavior increases) to make the beeping
stop, and thus remove the unpleasant stimulus. The next time you get in the car, you will
be faster to put on your seat belt, because you have learned that buckling up immediately
makes the annoying sound go away. For another example of negative reinforcement,
picture a dog that constantly begs for treats. The begging (an unpleasant stimulus) stops
the moment the dog is given a treat, a pattern that increases your treat-giving behavior.
The problem is that the dog’s begging behavior is being strengthened through positive
reinforcement; the dog has learned that the more it begs, the more treats it receives.
Notice that with negative reinforcement, the target behaviors increase in order to
remove an unwanted condition. Returning to our example of Jeremy Lin, how might
a basketball coach use negative reinforcement to increase a behavior? Of course, the
coach can’t build an electric grid in the flooring (as Skinner did with his rats) to get his
players moving faster. He might, however, start each practice session by whining and
complaining (a very annoying stimulus) about how slow the players are moving. But
as soon as their level of activity increases, he stops his annoying behavior. The players
then learn to avoid the coach’s whining and complaining simply by running faster
and working harder at every practice. Thus, the removal of the annoying stimulus
(whining and complaining) increases the desired behavior (running faster). Keep in
mind that the goal of negative reinforcement is to increase a desired behavior. Try to
remember this when you read the section on punishment.
LO 10 Distinguish between primary and secondary reinforcers.
are two major categories
of reinforcers: primary and secondary. The food with which Skinner rewarded his
pigeons and rats is considered a primary reinforcer (innate reinforcer), because it
satisfies a biological need. Food, water, and physical contact are considered primary
reinforcers (for both animals and people) because they meet essential requirements.
Many of the reinforcers shaping human behavior are secondary reinforcers, which
means they do not satisfy biological needs but often derive their power from their
connection with primary reinforcers. Although money is not a primary reinforcer, we
know from experience that it gives us access to primary reinforcers, such as food, a safe
place to live, and perhaps even the ability to attract desirable mates. Thus, money is a
secondary reinforcer. The list of secondary reinforcers is long and varied, because different people find different things and activities to be reinforcing. Listening to music,
washing dishes, taking a ride in your car—these would all be considered secondary
reinforcers for people who enjoy doing them. Ready for a tongue twister? A reinforcer
is only a reinforcer if the person receiving it finds it reinforcing. In other words, the
designation of a reinforcer depends on its ability to increase a target behavior.
Secondary reinforcers are evident in everyday social interactions. Think about
how your behaviors might change in response to praise from a boss, a pat on the
back from a coworker, or even a nod of approval from a friend on Facebook or Instagram. Yes, reinforcers can even exert their effects through the digital channels of
social media.
negative reinforcement omission training
secondary reinforcers conditioned
positive reinforcement The process by
which reinforcers are added or presented
following a targeted behavior, increasing
the likelihood of it occurring again.
negative reinforcement The removal
of an unpleasant stimulus following a target
behavior, which increases the likelihood of it
occurring again.
primary reinforcer A reinforcer that
satisfies a biological need, such as food,
water, physical contact; innate reinforcer.
secondary reinforcer Reinforcers that
do not satisfy biological needs but often
gain their power through their association
with primary reinforcers.
C HAP TE R 5 learning
O perant Conditioning
SOCIAL MEDIA and psychology
The Power of Partial Reinforcement
REINFORCEMENT Continuous reinforcement comes in handy for a variety of purposes and is ideal
for establishing new behaviors during the acquisition phase.
But delivering reinforcers intermittently, or every once in a
while, works better for maintaining behaviors. We call this
approach partial reinforcement. Returning to the examples
listed for continuous reinforcement, we can also imagine
partial reinforcement being used: The child gets praise
almost every time he does the dishes; a dog gets a treat every
third time it comes when called. The reinforcer is not given
every time the behavior is observed, only some of the time.
Early on, Ivonne received a reinforcer from her training
buddies for every workout she increased her mileage. But
how might partial reinforcement be used to help a runner
increase her mileage? Perhaps instead of hot chocolate on
every occasion, the treat could come after every other successful run. Or, a coach might praise the runner’s hard work
only some of the time. The amazing thing about partial
reinforcement is that it happens to all of us, in an infinite
number of settings, and we might never know how many
times we have been partially reinforced for any particular
behavior. Common to all of these partial reinforcement
situations is that the target behavior is exhibited, but the
reinforcer is not supplied each time this occurs.
The hard work and reinforcement paid off for Ivonne. In 2003 she ran her first
marathon—New York City—and has since competed in more than a dozen others.
LO 11
Contagious Behaviors
Infectious Goodness
Standing before a giant red mailbox,
London postal worker Imtiyaz Chawan
holds a Guinness World Records
certificate. Through the Royal Mail
Group’s Payroll Giving Scheme, British
postal workers donated money to 975
charitable groups, setting a record for
the number of charities supported by a
payroll giving scheme (Guinness Book of
World Records News, 2012, February 6).
Charitable giving is the type of positive
behavior that can spread through social
networks. Many charities are now using
social media for fundraising purposes.
David Parry/PA Wire
For the Love of Running
Ivonne runs tethered to her husband,
G. John Schmidt. She sets the pace,
while he warns her of any changes
in terrain, elevation, and
direction. When Ivonne
started running in
2001, her friends
reinforced her with
hot chocolate.
These days, she
doesn’t need
sweet treats to
keep her coming
back. The pleasure
she derives
from running is
enough. MICHAEL S.
WIRTZ/The Inquirer/Daily
Why do you keep glancing at your Facebook page, and what compels you
to check your phone 10 times an hour? All those little tweets and updates
you receive are reinforcing. It feels good to be retweeted, and it’s nice to see people
“like” your Instagram posts.
With its never-ending supply of mini-rewards, social media often sucks away
time that would otherwise be devoted to offline relationships and work—a clear
drawback. But the reinforcing power of social media can also be harnessed to promote
positive behaviors. A study by MIT researcher Damon Centola found that people are
more likely to explore healthy behaviors when alerted that others in their social media
networks are doing the same. This is especially true for those in “clustered” networks,
where people share many of the same contacts. As Centola observed: “People usually
require contact with multiple sources of ‘infection’ before being convinced to adopt
a behavior” (Centola, 2010, p. 1194). Each of these sources
WHY DO YOU CHECK of infection, it seems, provides social reinforcement for the
YOUR PHONE 10 positive behavior. Thus, if you want to develop a healthier
TIMES AN HOUR? lifestyle, it can’t hurt to surround yourself with online friends
who exercise, eat well, and don’t smoke.
Now that we have a basic understanding of operant conditioning, let’s take things
to the next level and examine its guiding principles.
Describe continuous reinforcement and partial reinforcement.
A year after graduating from Stanford, Ivonne returned to New York City and began
looking for a new activity to get her outside and moving. She found the New York
Road Runners Club, which connected her with an organization that supports and
trains runners with all types of disabilities, including paraplegia, amputation, and
cerebral palsy. Having no running experience (apart from jogging on a treadmill),
Ivonne showed up at a practice one Saturday morning in Central Park and ran 2 miles
with one of the running club’s guides. The next week she came back for more, and
then the next, and the next.
Ivonne first
started attending practices, her teammates promised to buy
her hot chocolate whenever she increased her distance.
“Every time they would try to get me to run further,
they’d say, ‘We’ll have hot chocolate afterwards!’”
Ivonne remembers. “They actually would follow
through with their promise!” The hot chocolate
was given in a schedule of continuous reinforcement, because the reinforcer was presented every
time Ivonne ran a little farther. Continuous reinforcement can be used in a variety of settings: a
child getting praise every time he does the dishes; a
dog getting a treat every time it comes when called.
You get the commonality: reinforcement every time
the behavior is produced.
Skinner put the pigeons in his
experiments on partial reinforcement schedules, they would peck at a target up to
10,000 times without getting food before giving up (Skinner, 1953). According
to Skinner, “Nothing of this sort is ever obtained after continuous reinforcement”
(p. 99). The same seems to be true with humans. In one study from the mid1950s, researchers observed college students playing slot machines. Some of the slot
machines provided continuous reinforcement, delivering pretend coins every time
students pulled their levers. Others followed partial reinforcement schedules, dispensing coins only some of the time. After the students played eight rounds, all of the
machines stopped giving coins. Without any coins to reinforce them, the students
stopped pulling the levers—but not at the same time. Those who had received coins
with every lever pull gave up more quickly than did those rewarded intermittently.
In other words, lever-pulling behavior was less likely to be extinguished when established through partial reinforcement (Lewis & Duncan, 1956). Psychologists call this
phenomenon the partial reinforcement effect: Behaviors take longer to disappear
(through the process of extinction) when they have been acquired or maintained
through partial, rather than continuous, reinforcement.
Remember, partial reinforcement works very well for maintaining behaviors, but
not necessarily for establishing behaviors. Imagine how long it would take Skinner’s
pigeons to learn the first step in the shaping process (looking at the ball) if they were
rewarded for doing so only 1 in 5 times. The birds learn fastest when reinforced
every time, but their behavior will persist longer if they are given partial reinforcement thereafter. Here’s another example: Suppose you are housetraining your puppy.
The best plan is to start the process with continuous reinforcement (praise the dog
every time it “goes” outside), but then shift to partial reinforcement once the desired
behavior is established.
Hope Springs Eternal
Why are slot machines
so enticing? The fact
that they deliver rewards
occasionally and
unpredictably makes
them irresistible to many
gamblers. Slot machines
take advantage of the
partial reinforcement
effect, which states
that behaviors are
more persistent when
reinforced intermittently,
rather than continuously.
David Sacks/Getty Images
partial reinforcement intermittent
continuous reinforcement A schedule
of reinforcement in which every target
behavior is reinforced.
partial reinforcement A schedule of
reinforcement in which target behaviors are
reinforced intermittently, not continuously.
partial reinforcement effect The
tendency for behaviors acquired through
intermittent reinforcement to be more
resistant to extinction than those acquired
through continuous reinforcement.
C HAP TE R 5 learning
O perant Conditioning
Timing Is Everything: Reinforcement Schedules
LO 12 Name the schedules of reinforcement and give examples of each.
Skinner identified various ways to administer partial reinforcement, or partial reinforcement schedules. As often occurs in scientific research, he stumbled on the idea
by chance. Late one Friday afternoon, Skinner realized he was running low on
the food pellets he used as reinforcers for his laboratory animals. If he continued rewarding the animals on a continuous basis, the pellets would run
out before the end of the weekend. With this in mind, he decided
only to reinforce some of the desired behaviors (Skinner, 1956,
1976). The new strategy worked like a charm. The
animals kept performing the target behaviors, even
though they weren’t given reinforcers every time.
Clearly partial reinforcement is effective, but
how exactly should it be delivered? Four different reinforcement schedules can be used: fixed-ratio, variable-ratio, fixed-interval,
and variable-interval (Figure 5.3).
Schedules of Reinforcement
Continuous reinforcement
is ideal for establishing new
behaviors. But once learned,
a behavior is best maintained
with partial reinforcement.
Partial reinforcement can
be delivered according to
four different schedules of
reinforcement, as shown here.
Fixed-Ratio: Reinforcer is given after a predetermined number of desired responses.
peck reinforcement
peck reinforcement
peck with food pellet
peck with food pellet
on 5 peck
on 5 peck
with food pellet
on 5 th peck
Variable-Ratio: Reinforcer is given after a certain number of desired responses—and this number
with food pellet
on 3 rd peck
peck peck
peck peck
peck with thfood pellet
on 8 peck
peck peck
with food pellet
on 4 th peck
40 seconds
Fixed-Interval: Reinforcer is given when a desired response occurs after a preestablished interval of time.
peck R E I NFOR
Time intervals
40 seconds
40 seconds
reinforcement at 40 second intervals (as long as there is at least one peck during the interval)
Variable-Interval: Reinforcer is given when a desired response occurs after a certain interval of time,
the length of which changes from trial to trial.
40 seconds
reinforcement at variable intervals (as long as there is at least one peck during the interval)
43 seconds
41 seconds
Time intervals
some situations, the best approach to reinforcement is a fixed-ratio schedule. With this arrangement, the subject must exhibit a
predetermined number of desired responses or behaviors before a reinforcer is given.
A pigeon in a Skinner box may have to peck a spot five times in order to score a delicious pellet (5:1). A third-grade teacher might give students prizes when they pass
three multiplication tests (3:1). Generally, the fixed-ratio schedule produces a high
response rate, but with a characteristic dip immediately following the reinforcement.
Pigeons rest briefly before pecking away at the target again, and students take a short
break before studying for another multiplication test.
times, it is best to use reinforcement that
is unpredictable. In a variable-ratio schedule, the number of desired responses or
behaviors that must occur before a reinforcer is given changes across trials. (This
number is based on an average number of responses to be reinforced.) If the goal is to
train a pigeon to peck a spot on a target, a variable-ratio schedule can be used as follows: Trial 1, the pigeon gets a pellet after pecking the spot twice; Trial 2, the pigeon
gets a pellet after pecking the spot once; Trial 3, the pigeon gets a pellet after pecking
the spot three times; and so on. In the third-grade classroom, the teacher might not
tell the students how many tests they will need to pass to get a prize. She may give a
prize after two tests, then the next time after seven tests. This variable-ratio schedule
tends to produce a high response rate (pecking and studying in our examples) and
behaviors that are difficult to extinguish because of the unpredictability of the reinforcement schedule.
changes from trial to trial.
some cases, it might be important to focus
on the interval of time between reinforcers, as opposed to the number of desired
responses. In a fixed-interval schedule, the reinforcer comes after a preestablished
interval of time; a reinforcer is given for the first target behavior after that period has
elapsed. If a pigeon is on a fixed-interval schedule of 30 seconds, it can peck at the
target as often as possible once the interval starts, but it will only get a reinforcer following its first response after the 30 seconds has ended. If the third graders are on a
fixed-interval schedule of 1 week, the teacher gives prizes only on Fridays for children
who do well on their math quiz that day; it doesn’t matter how they performed on
other math quizzes earlier that week. With this schedule, the target behavior tends to
increase as each time interval comes to an end. The pigeon pecks the spot more often
when the time nears 30 seconds, and the students study harder as Friday approaches.
a variable-interval schedule, the length
of time between reinforcements is unpredictable. In this schedule, the reinforcer
comes after an interval of time goes by, but the length of the interval changes from
trial to trial (within a predetermined range based on an average interval length). As
with the fixed-interval schedule, reinforcement follows the first target behavior that
occurs after the time interval has elapsed. Training a pigeon to peck a spot on a target
using a variable-interval schedule might include the following: Trial 1, the pigeon gets
a pellet after 41 seconds; Trial 2, the pigeon gets a pellet after 43 seconds; Trial 3, the
pigeon gets a pellet after 40 seconds; and so on. In each trial, the pigeon is rewarded
for the first response it makes after the interval of time has passed (which varies from
trial to trial). The third-grade teacher might think that an average of 4 days should
go by between quizzes. So, instead of giving reinforcers every 7 days (that is, always
on Friday), she gives quizzes separated by a variable interval. The first quiz might be
after a 2-day interval, the next after a 3-day interval, and the students do not know
when to expect them. The variable-interval schedule tends to encourage steady patterns of behavior. The pigeon tries its luck pecking a target once every 40 seconds or
fixed-ratio schedule A schedule
in which the subject must exhibit a
predetermined number of desired behaviors
before a reinforcer is given.
variable-ratio schedule A schedule
in which the number of desired behaviors
that must occur before a reinforcer is
given changes across trials and is based
on an average number of behaviors to be
fixed-interval schedule A schedule
in which the reinforcer comes after a
preestablished interval of time goes by; the
behavior is only reinforced after the given
interval is over.
variable-interval schedule A schedule
in which the reinforcer comes after an
interval of time goes by, but the length of
the interval changes from trial to trial.
so, and the students come to school prepared to take a quiz every day (their amount
of study holding steady).
So far, we have learned about increasing desired behaviors through reinforcement,
but not all behaviors are desirable. Let’s turn our attention to techniques used to suppress undesirable behaviors.
The Trouble with Punishment
In contrast to reinforcement, which makes a behavior more likely to recur, the goal
of punishment is to decrease or stop a behavior (Infographic 5.3). Punishment is
used to reduce unwanted behaviors by instilling an association between a behavior
and some unwanted consequence (for example, between stealing and going to jail,
or between misbehaving and a spanking). Punishment isn’t always effective, however;
people are often willing to accept unpleasant consequences to get something they
really want.
Sending a child to a corner for
a “time-out” is an example
of negative punishment
because it involves
removing something
(the privilege to
play) in order
to decrease an
unwanted behavior.
Spanking is a
positive punishment
because it involves
the addition of
something (a slap
on the bottom)
to discourage an
undesirable behavior.
Design Pics/Ron Nickel/
Getty Images
punishment The application of a
consequence that decreases the likelihood
of a behavior recurring.
positive punishment The addition
of something unpleasant following an
unwanted behavior, with the intention of
decreasing that behavior.
negative punishment The removal of
something desirable following an unwanted
behavior, with the intention of decreasing
that behavior.
POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE PUNISHMENT There are two major categories of
punishment: positive and negative. With positive punishment, something aversive or
disagreeable is applied following an unwanted behavior. For example, getting a ticket
for speeding is a positive punishment, the aim of which is to decrease driving over the
speed limit. Paying a late fine for overdue library books is a positive punishment, the
goal of which is to decrease returning library books past their due date. In basketball,
a personal foul (for example, inappropriate physical contact) might result in positive
punishment, such as a free throw for the opposing team. Here, the addition of something aversive (the other team getting a wide open shot) is used with the
intention of decreasing a behavior (pushing, shoving, and the like).
The goal of negative punishment is also to reduce an
unwanted behavior, but in this case, it is done by taking away
something desirable. A person who drives while inebriated runs the risk of negative punishment, as his driver’s
license may be taken away. This loss of driving privileges
is a punishment designed to reduce drunken driving.
If you never return your library books, you might suffer the negative punishment of losing your borrowing
privileges. The goal is to decrease behaviors that lead
to lost or stolen library books. What kind of negative
punishment might be used to rein in illegal conduct in
basketball? Just ask one of Jeremy Lin’s former teammates,
superstar Carmelo Anthony, one of many players suspended
for participating in a 2006 brawl between the Knicks and the
Denver Nuggets. Anthony, a Nuggets player at the time (how
ironic that he was later traded to the Knicks), was dealt a 15-game
suspension (and no salary for those games not played) for slugging a Knicks
player in the face (Lee, 2006, December 19). Anthony’s suspension is an example
of negative punishment, because it involves subtracting something desirable (the
privilege to compete and his salary for those games) to decrease a behavior (throwing
punches on the court).
Punishment may be useful for the purposes of basketball, but how does it figure
into everyday life? Think about the last time you tried using punishment to reduce
unwanted behavior. Perhaps you scolded your puppy for having an accident, or
snapped at your housemate for leaving dirty dishes in the sink. If you are a parent or
caregiver of a young child, perhaps you have tried to reign in misbehavior with various types of punishment, such as spanking.
Learning: Punishment and Reinforcement
Behavior: Driving Fast
Do you want to increase this behavior?
Red sports cars, © lenka -; Police officer writing a ticket, © Lisa F. Young -; Flags, ©
FreeSoulProduction -; Green Traffic Light, Thinkstock; Red Traffic Light, Thinkstock; Wrench, Thinkstock;
Green highway sign isolated, Thinkstock; Speed limit road sign with post and different numbers, © Thomaspajot/; Red flashing light on a white background, © Fotovika/; Trophy, Comstock/Thinkstock;
Falling money, istockphoto/Thinkstock; Vector design set of racing flags, freesoulproduction/Shutterstock.
It’s Nascar! You have to drive faster
than anyone else to win.
We will apply a reinforcer to
increase the behavior.
You don’t like working in
the family auto-body shop.
Your family says you
can work fewer hours
if you win the next race.
Taking away
unwanted work
increases the
speeding behavior.
test yourself
You win a trophy
and a cash prize for
going fast at the race.
Adding desirable
rewards increases
your speeding
We’re not at the racetrack! Speeding
is dangerous and against the law.
We will apply a punishment to
decrease the behavior.
The police officer
confiscates your license.
Taking away something
desirable decreases
your speeding behavior.
The police officer
gives you a citation.
Adding something
decreases your
speeding behavior.
Which process matches each of the following examples?
Choose from positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, positive punishment, and negative punishment.
1. Carlos’ parents grounded him the last time he stayed out past his
4. Gabriel’s assistant had a bad habit of showing up late for work,
2. Jinhee spent an entire week helping an elderly neighbor clean out her
5. During food drives, the basketball team offers to wash your car for free
curfew, so tonight he came home right on time.
basement after a flood. The local newspaper caught wind of the story
and ran it as an inspiring front-page headline. Jinhee enjoyed the
attention and decided to organize a neighborhood work group.
3. The trash stinks, so Sheri takes it out.
so Gabriel docked his pay.
if you donate six items or more to the local homeless shelter.
6. Claire received a stern lecture for texting in class. She doesn’t want to
hear that again, so now she turns off her phone when she enters the
Answers 1. negative punishment, 2. positive reinforcement, 3. negative reinforcement, 4. negative punishment, 5. positive reinforcement, 6. positive punishment
C HAP TE R 5 learning
O perant Conditioning
Spotlight on Spanking
Were you spanked as a child? Would you or do you spank your own children? Statistically speaking, there is a good chance your answer will be yes to both
questions. Studies suggest that about two thirds of American parents use corporal
(physical) punishment to discipline their young children (Gershoff, 2008; Regalado,
Sareen, Inkelas, Wissow, & Halfon, 2004; Zolotor, Theodore, Runyan, Chang, &
Laskey, 2011). But is spanking an effective and acceptable means of discipline?
There is little doubt that spanking can provide a fast-acting fix: If a child
is beating up his brother, a swift slap on his bottom will probably make him stop
pronto. But think about the larger lesson the boy learns in the process.
TO SPANK OR NOT His parents are trying to teach him not to be aggressive toward his
TO SPANK . . . brother, but in doing so, they demonstrate an aggressive behavior (hitting). Children are experts at mimicking adults’ behaviors (see the next
section on observational learning), and several studies suggest that spanking is linked
to future aggression and other antisocial behaviors (Gershoff, 2010; Taylor, Manganello, Lee, & Rice, 2010).
Apart from sending children the message that aggression is okay, corporal
punishment may promote serious long-term mental health problems. Harsh physical punishment, which includes spanking, grabbing, and pushing, has been linked
to an elevated risk for developing mood, anxiety, and personality disorders (Afifi,
Mota, Dasiewicz, MacMillan, & Sareen, 2012). It may also interfere with cognitive
development, retarding growth in various parts of the frontal lobes (Tomoda et al.,
2009), a region of the brain that processes complex thoughts. One study even found
that spanked children score lower on intelligence tests than their nonspanked peers
(Straus & Paschall, 2009).
Critics argue that studies casting a negative light on spanking are primarily corCONNECTIONS
meaning they show only a link—not necessarily a cause-and-effect relationIn Chapter 2, we noted the primary
ship—between physical punishment and negative outcomes (Larzelere & Baumrind,
roles of the frontal lobes: to organize
information processed in other areas
2010). They point to other factors that might explain some of the problems spanked
of the brain, orchestrate higher-level
children seem to develop. Perhaps these children are aggressive and antisocial to begin
cognitive functions, and direct behaviors
with (that would explain why they were spanked in the first place), or maybe their
associated with personality. Here, we
parents are more likely to be abusive, and the abuse (not the spanking) is to blame
note that harsh physical punishment
(Baumrind, Larzelere, & Cowan, 2002). Spanking, or “striking a child with an open
interferes with normal development of
the frontal lobes—a good example of
hand on the buttocks or extremities with the intention of modifying behavior without
the ongoing interaction between nature
causing physical injury” (American Academy of Pediatrics, 1998, pp. 725–726), may
(physical development of the brain) and
be an effective way to modify young children’s behavior, according to some experts
nurture (physical punishment).
(Baumrind, Larzelere, & Cowan, 2002; Larzelere & Baumrind, 2010). But it must be
delivered by a parent whose approach is “warm, responsive, rational, and temperate”
(Baumrind, 1996, p. 857).
Scholars on both sides make valid points, but the debate is somewhat lopsided,
as an increasing number of studies suggest that spanking is ineffective and emotionally damaging (Gershoff & Bitensky, 2008; Smith, 2012; Straus, 2005).
LO 13 Explain how punishment differs from negative reinforcement.
PUNISHMENT VERSUS NEGATIVE REINFORCEMENT Punishment and negative reinforcement are two concepts that students often find difficult to distinguish (Table 5.3; also see Infographic 5.3 on p. 199). Remember that punishment
(positive or negative) is designed to decrease the behavior that it follows, whereas
Table 5.3 Reinforcement
versus Punishment
Addition of a pleasant stimulus
following a target behavior
Increase desired
Students who complete an online course
15 days before the end of semester
receive 10 points of extra credit.
Removal of an unpleasant
stimulus following a
target behavior
Increase desired
Students who have perfect attendance for the
semester do not have to take the final exam.
Addition of something
unpleasant following an
unwanted behavior
Decrease undesired
Students who are late to class more than
two times have to write an extra paper.
Removal of something
pleasant following an
unwanted behavior
Decrease undesired
Students late to class on exam
day are not allowed to use their
notes when taking the exam.
The positive and negative forms of reinforcement and punishment are easy to confuse. Above are some concrete definitions, goals, and
examples to help you sort them out.
reinforcement (positive or negative) aims to increase the behavior. Operant conditioning uses reinforcers (both positive and negative) to increase target behaviors,
and punishment to decrease unwanted behaviors.
If all the positives and negatives are confusing you, just think in terms of math:
Positive always means adding something, and negative means taking it away. Punishment can be positive, which means the addition of something viewed as unpleasant
(“Because you made a mess of your room, you have to wash all the dishes!”), or
negative, which involves the removal of something viewed as pleasant or valuable
(“Because you made a mess of your room, no ice cream for you!”). For basketball
players, a positive punishment might be adding more wind sprints to decrease errors
on the free throw line. An example of negative punishment might be benching the
players for brawling on the court; taking away the players’ court time to decrease their
fighting behavior.
Apply This
Think Positive Reinforcement
With all this talk of chickens, basketball players, and triathletes, you may be wondering how operant conditioning applies to you. Just think about the last time you
earned a good grade on a test after studying really hard. How did this grade affect
your preparation for the next test? If it made you study more, then it served as a
positive reinforcer. A little dose of positive reinforcement goes a long way when
it comes to increasing productivity. Let’s examine three everyday dilemmas and
brainstorm ways we could use positive reinforcers to achieve better outcomes.
Problem 1: Your housemate frequently goes to sleep without washing his dinner dishes. Almost every morning, you walk into the kitchen and find a tower
of dirty pans and plates sitting in the sink. No matter how much you nag and
complain, he simply will not change his ways. Solution: Nagging and complaining are getting you nowhere. Try positive reinforcers instead. Wait until a
day your housemate takes care of his dishes and then pour on the praise. You
might be pleasantly surprised the next morning.
C HAP TE R 5 learning
O b servational L earning and Cognition
Problem 2: Your child is annoying you with her incessant whining. She whines
for milk, so you give it to her. She whines for someone to play with, so you
play with her. Why does your child continue to whine although you are responding to all her needs? Solution: Here, we have a case in
REINFORCEMENT which positive reinforcers are driving the problem. When you
STRATEGIES YOU react to your child’s gripes and moans, you are reinforcing them.
PUT TO GOOD USE Turn off your ears to the whining. You might even want to say
something like, “I can’t hear you when you’re whining. If you
ask me in a normal voice, I’ll be more than happy to help.” Then reinforce her
more mature behavior by responding attentively.
Problem 3: You just trained your puppy to sit. She was cooperating wonderfully until about a week after you stopped rewarding her with dog biscuits.
You want her to sit on command, but you can’t keep doling out doggie treats
forever. Solution: Once the dog has adopted the desired behavior, begin reinforcing unpredictably. Remember, continuous reinforcement is most effective
for establishing behaviors, but a variable schedule (that is, giving treats intermittently) is a good bet if you want to make the behavior stick (Pryor, 2002).
Classical and Operant ­Conditioning:
What’s the Difference?
Differences Between Classical and
Operant Conditioning
(learner’s response
is reflexive)
Nature of
Learn to link
different stimuli
repeated pairing
of stimuli
Students sometimes have trouble differentiating classical and operant conditioning
(Figure 5.4). After all, both forms of conditioning—classical and operant—involve
forming associations. In classical conditioning, the learner links different stimuli; in
operant conditioning, the learner connects her behavior to its consequences (reinforcement and punishment). Another key similarity is that the principles of acquisition,
stimulus discrimination, stimulus generalization, extinction, and spontaneous recovery apply to both types of conditioning.
But there are also key differences between classical and operant conditioning. In
classical conditioning, the learned behaviors are involuntary, or reflexive. Ivonne cannot
directly control her heart rate any more than Pavlov’s dogs can decide when to salivate.
Operant conditioning, on the other hand, concerns voluntary behavior. Jeremy Lin had
power over his decision to practice his shot, just as Skinner’s pigeons had control over
swatting bowling balls with their beaks. In short, classical conditioning is an involuntary
form of learning, whereas operant conditioning requires active effort.
Another important distinction is the way in which
behaviors are strengthened. In classical conditioning, behavOPERANT
iors become more frequent with repeated pairings of stimuli.
The more often Ivonne smells chlorine before swim practice,
the tighter the association she makes between chlorine and
(learner controls
swimming. Operant conditioning is also strengthened by
repeated pairings, but in this case, the connection is between
a behavior and its consequences. Reinforcers strengthen
Learn to link
the behavior; punishment weakens it. The more benefits
(reinforcers) Jeremy gains from succeeding in basketball, the
with behavior
more likely he will keep practicing.
Often classical conditioning and operant conditioning
occur simultaneously. A baby learns that he gets fed when
repeated pairing
of consequence
he cries; getting milk reinforces the crying behavior (operant
and behavior
conditioning). At the same time, the baby learns to associate
milk with the appearance of the bottle. As soon as he sees his mom or dad take the
bottle from the refrigerator, he begins salivating in anticipation of gulping it down
(classical conditioning).
Classical and operant conditioning are not the only ways we learn. There is one
major category of learning we have yet to cover. Use this hint to guess what it might
be: How did you learn to peel a banana, open an umbrella, and throw a Frisbee?
Somebody must have shown you.
show what you know
1. According to Thorndike and the
, behaviors
are more likely to be repeated when they are followed by
pleasurable outcomes.
2. A third-grade teacher gives her students prizes for passing
math tests. Not only do the students improve their math scores,
they also begin studying harder for their spelling tests as a
result of this reinforcement schedule. Their increased studying
of spelling is an example of:
a. classical conditioning.
b. an unconditioned response.
c. an unconditioned stimulus.
d. stimulus generalization.
3. A child disrupts class and the teacher writes her name on the
board. For the rest of the week, the child does not act up.
to decrease the child’s
The teacher used
disruptive behaviors.
b. negative punishment
a. positive punishment
c. positive reinforcement
d. negative reinforcement
4. Think about a behavior you would like to change (either yours
or someone else’s). Devise a schedule of reinforcement using
positive and negative reinforcement to change that behavior.
Also contemplate how you might use successive approximations.
What primary and secondary reinforcers would you use?
5. How do continuous and partial reinforcement differ?
Check your answers in Appendix C.
Observational Learning and Cognition
BASKETBALL IQ Jeremy Lin is not the fastest runner or highest jumper
on the planet, and he is certainly not the biggest guy in professional hoops.
In the world of the NBA, where the players’ average height is about 6´7˝
and the average weight is 220 pounds, Jeremy is actually somewhat small
(, 2007, November 20;, 2007, November 27). So what
is it about this benchwarmerturned-big-shot that makes him so
special? Jeremy’s success, we suspect, is
largely a result of qualities that are extremely hard to measure, like unstoppable confidence, dogged determination, and a penetrating basketball IQ,
or mental mastery of the sport. “There
are very few people that have the same
basketball IQ,” Coach Diepenbrock
explains. “That’s what separates him
from other players.”
The roots of Jeremy’s hoop
smarts reach back to his father’s native
country. Growing up in Taiwan,
Gie-Ming Lin didn’t have much exposure to basketball, but he was fascinated by what he saw of the sport.
When Gie-Ming arrived in America,
he fell head over heels in love with
basketball, taping NBA games and
watching them any chance he got.
Playing for the Los Angeles Lakers,
Jeremy Lin charges past Jerryd
Bayless of the Milwaukee Bucks.
Jeremy may not be the tallest player
in the NBA, but he more than makes
up for that in confidence and game
smarts. Tannen Maury/EPA/Landov
C HAP TE R 5 learning
O b servational L earning and Cognition
This 5´6˝ engineering student had never picked up a basketball, but he managed
to learn the techniques of the game by closely watching the moves of NBA legends
like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird, and Magic Johnson (O’Neil, 2009, December 10). Eventually, he tried those moves on the court, and passed them along to
Jeremy and his other two sons. Bobo Doll
Preschool children
in Albert Bandura’s
famous Bobo
doll experiment
shocking displays
of aggression after
seeing violent
behaviors modeled
by adults. The
children were more
likely to copy models
who were rewarded
for their aggressive
behavior and less
likely to mimic those
who were punished
(Bandura, 1986).
The NBA greats that Gie-Ming studied served as models, demonstrating behaviors that could be observed and imitated. We call this process observational learning,
as it results from watching the behavior of others. According to Bandura (1986), this
type of learning is more likely to occur when the learner: (1) is paying attention to
the model; (2) remembers what she observed (Bahrick, Gogate, & Ruiz, 2002); (3) is
capable of performing the behavior she has observed; and (4) is motivated to demonstrate the behavior.
Basketball Family
Baby Jeremy poses with his father
Gie-Ming, a basketball aficionado who
learned the game by studying NBA greats
like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Larry Bird
(O’Neil, 2009, December 10).
observational learning social learning
The Power of Observational Learning
Think about how observational learning impacts your own life. Speaking English,
eating with utensils, and driving a car are all skills you probably picked up in part by
watching and mimicking others. Do you ever use slang? Phrases like “gnarley” (cool)
from the 1980s, “Wassup” (What is going on?) from the 1990s, and “peeps” (my
people, or friends) from the 2000s caught on because people copy what they observe
others saying and writing. Consider some of the phrases trending today that 20 years
from now people won’t recognize.
Observational learning doesn’t necessarily require sight. Let’s return to Ivonne,
who competes in triathlons, consisting of 1 mile of swimming, 25 miles of biking,
and 6 miles of running. Ivonne performs the swimming and running sections
of the triathlon attached to a guide with a tether, and the bike section on a
tandem bike with the guide. To fine-tune her swimming technique, she
feels her swim coach demonstrate the freestyle stroke. Standing in the
water behind him, Ivonne places one hand on his back and the other
on his arm while he goes through the motions of a stroke. She feels
the angle of his arms as they break the water’s surface, the distance
between his fingers as he plows through the water, and the position of his wrist throughout the motion. Then she imitates the
movement she observed through her sense of touch.
LO 14 S
ummarize what Bandura’s classic Bobo
doll study teaches us about learning.
Tandem Triathletes
Ivonne (rear) and her guide, Marit Ogin,
ride together in the Nickel City Buffalo
Triathlon. The guide is responsible for
steering, breaking, and communicating
to Ivonne when it is time to shift gears
or adjust body position for a turn. G. John
Schmidt/Courtesy Ivonne Mosquera-Schmidt
as observational learning can lead to positive outcomes like sharper
basketball and swimming skills, it can also breed undesirable
behaviors. The classic Bobo doll experiment conducted by psychologist Albert Bandura and his colleagues revealed just how fast
children can adopt aggressive ways they see modeled by adults, as well
as exhibit their own novel aggressive responses (Bandura, Ross, & Ross,
1961). In one of Bandura’s studies, 76 preschool children were placed in a
room alone with an adult and allowed to play with stickers and prints for making
pictures. During their playtime, some of the children were paired with adults who
acted aggressively toward a 5-foot-tall inflatable Bobo doll—punching it in the
nose, hitting its head with a mallet, kicking it around the room, and yelling phrases
such as, “Sock him in the nose” and “Pow!” The other children in the study were
paired with adults who played with toys peacefully (Bandura et al., 1961).
Courtesy Dr. Albert Bandura
At the end of the experiment, all the children were allowed to play with a Bobo
doll themselves. Those who had observed adults attacking and shouting were much
more likely to do the same. Boys were more likely than girls to mimic physical aggression, especially if they had observed it modeled by men. Boys and girls were about
equally likely to imitate verbal aggression (Bandura et al., 1961).
Identify the independent variable and dependent variable in the experiment by
Bandura and colleagues. What might you change if you were to replicate this
have followed up Bandura’s research
with studies investigating how children are influenced by violence they see on
television, the Internet, and in movies and video games. The American Academy of Pediatrics sums it up nicely: “Extensive research evidence indicates that
media violence can contribute to aggressive behavior, desensitization to violence,
nightmares, and fear of being harmed” (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2009,
p. 1495). One large study found that children who watched TV programs with
violent role models, such as Starsky and Hutch (a detective series from the 1970s
that included violence and suspense), were at increased risk when they became
adults of physically abusing their spouses and getting into trouble with the law
(Huesmann, Moise-Titus, Podolski, & Eron, 2003). A more recent study conducted in New Zealand followed over 1,000 children from as early as birth until
they were around 26 years old. The researchers found that the more television
the children watched, the more likely they were to show antisocial behaviors as
young adults. Interestingly, this association was between antisocial behaviors and
excessive television viewing, regardless of the content (Robertson, McAnally, &
Hancox, 2013).
try this
Check your answers
in Appendix C.
model The individual or character whose
behavior is being imitated.
observational learning Learning that
occurs as a result of watching the behavior
of others.
C HAP TE R 5 learning
Sunny Days
The prosocial behaviors
demonstrated by Big Bird and
Sesame Street friends appear to have
a meaningful impact on child viewers.
Children have a knack for imitating
positive behaviors such as sharing
and caring (Cole et al., 2008).
AP Photo/Mark Lennihan
Whistling Ape
Bonnie the orangutan
seems to have learned
whistling by copying
workers at the Smithsonian
National Zoological Park
in Washington, DC. Her
musical skill is the result
of observational learning
(Stone, 2009; Wich et al.,
2009). Courtesy of Smithsonian
National Zoological Park
O b servational L earning and Cognition
Critics caution, however, that an association between media portrayals and violent
behaviors doesn’t mean there is a cause-and-effect relationship (establishing an association is not the same as pinning down a cause). There are other factors related to parenting that could influence both television viewing and aggression (Huesmann et al.,
2003). If a parent is emotionally neglectful and places a child in front of the television
all day, the child may eventually imitate some of the aggression she sees on TV. At
the same time, the child may resent the parent for ignoring her, and this resentment
could lead to aggression. But how do you know which of these factors—television
exposure or parenting approach—is more important in the development of aggressive tendencies? This is an active area of psychological research, but experts agree that
television and other forms of media may influence aggressive tendencies in children
(Clemente, Espinosa, & Vidal, 2008; Office of the Surgeon General, National Center
for Injury Prevention and Control, National Institute of Mental Health, & Center
for Mental Health Services, 2001). The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that children should be limited to less than 1–2 hours of total screen time
per day (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2001, 2013). Unfortunately, children and
their parents have not followed this recommendation. In fact, the average screen time
for preschool-age children in the United States has been reported to be as much as
4 hours a day (Tandon, Zhou, Lozano, & Christakis, 2011). Instead of focusing on
the number of hours children watch television, some have suggested that we should
focus on program content, encouraging families and caregivers to reduce exposure to
programs that contain violence and aggression, and to increase the amount of content
with prosocial behavior (Christakis et al., 2013; McCarthy, 2013).
side to this issue: Children also have a gift for mimicking positive behaviors. When
children watch shows similar to Sesame Street, they receive messages that encourage
prosocial behaviors, meaning these programs foster kindness, generosity, and forms
of behavior that benefit others.
Let’s look more closely at research on the impact of prosocial models. Using
scales to measure children’s stereotypes and cultural knowledge before and after
they watch TV shows, a group of researchers found evidence that shows like Sesame
Street can have a positive influence (Cole, Labin, & del Rocio Galarza, 2008). Based
on their review of multiple studies, these researchers made recommendations to
increase prosocial behaviors. Children’s shows should have
intended messages, include prosocial information about
people of other cultures and religions, be relevant to children in terms of culture and environment, and be ageappropriate and contain intentional and direct (unhidden)
messages aimed at educating children about people from
different backgrounds.
Adults can also pick up prosocial messages from media.
In a multipart study, researchers exposed adults to prosocial
song lyrics (as opposed to neutral lyrics). The first experiment found that listening to prosocial lyrics increased the
frequency of prosocial thoughts. Findings from the second
experiment indicated that listening to a song with prosocial
lyrics increased empathy, or the ability to understand what
another person is going through. The third experiment found
that listening to a song with prosocial lyrics increased helping behavior. These researchers only looked at the short-term
effects, but exposing people continuously to prosocial lyrics
may have a lasting impact (Greitemeyer, 2009).
When learning occurs through observation, often it is visible. Children watching
aggression toward a Bobo doll imitate the behaviors they see, which researchers can
witness and document. Not all forms of learning are so obvious.
Latent Learning
LO 15 Describe latent learning and explain how cognition is involved in learning.
Ivonne’s feet pound the streets of Boston. She is among some 20,000 runners competing in the city’s oldest annual 26.2-mile running race, the Boston Marathon. (Ivonne
has nabbed first place in the Women’s Visually Impaired Division three times.) She
runs with teammates who make sure the path is clear, allowing her to focus on her
performance instead of worrying about obstacles.
a race, Ivonne
checks online to see if there is a description of the course or
studies a map with her husband or a friend in order to learn
the location of important landmarks such as hills, major turns,
bridges, railroad tracks, and so on. “Doing this helps me feel that
I have an idea of what to expect, and when to expect it,” Ivonne
says. The mental layout she creates contributes to her cognitive
map, a mental representation of the physical surroundings, and it
continues to come together in the race. As Ivonne runs, she hears
sounds from all directions—the breathing of other runners, their
feet hitting the ground, chatter from the sidelines—and uses these
auditory cues to produce a mental map of her surroundings. In
fact, we all create these cognitive maps, which provide a spatial
representation to help us navigate our environment. These maps
are developed through latent learning, a type of learning that
occurs without awareness and regardless of reinforcement, and
that remains hidden until there is a need to use it.
Tolman and his colleague C. H.
Honzik demonstrated latent learning in rats in their classic 1930 maze experiment
(Figure 5.5 on the next page). The researchers took three groups of rats and let them
run free in mazes for several days. One group received food for reaching the goal
boxes in their mazes; a second group received no reinforcement; and a third received
nothing until the 11th day of the experiment, when they, too, received food for finding the goal box. As you might expect, rats getting the treats from the onset solved
the mazes more quickly as the days wore on. Meanwhile, their unrewarded compatriots wandered through the twists and turns, showing only minor improvements
from one day to the next. But on Day 11 when the researchers started to give treats
to the third group of rats, their behavior changed markedly. After just one round of
treats, the rats were scurrying through the mazes and scooping up the food as if they
had been rewarded throughout the experiment (Tolman & Honzik, 1930). They had
apparently been learning, even when there was no reinforcement for doing so—or in
simpler terms, learning just for the sake of learning.
We all do this as we acquire cognitive maps of our environments. Without realizing it, we remember locations, objects, and details of our surroundings, and bring
this information together in a mental layout (Lynch, 2002). Research suggests that
visually impaired people forge cognitive maps without the use of visual information.
Instead, they use “compensatory sensorial channels” (hearing and sense of touch, for
example) to gather information about their environments (Lahav & Mioduser, 2008).
Feel the Map
Ivonne’s husband guides her hand
over the map of a racecourse. She
is beginning to form a cognitive
map of the route, one that will
continue to crystallize as she races.
While running, Ivonne’s ears collect
clues about the relative positions of
objects and the direction of motion—
information that goes into creating
a cognitive map. MICHAEL S. WIRTZ/The
Inquirer/Daily News/
prosocial behaviors Actions that are
kind, generous, and beneficial to others.
cognitive map The mental
representation of the layout of a physical
latent learning Learning that occurs
without awareness and regardless of
reinforcement, and is not evident until
C HAP TE R 5 learning
O b servational L earning and Cognition
Latent Learning
Source: Adapted from Tolman, 1948
Shoot for the Stars
Jeremy works with an aspiring basketball
player in Taipei, Taiwan. His work with
children continues through the Jeremy
Lin Foundation, a nonprofit organization
devoted to serving young people and
their communities. AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying
No reinforcement
Error rate
In a classic experiment, groups of rats
learned how to navigate a maze at
remarkably different rates. Rats in a
group receiving reinforcement from Day 1
(the green line on the graph) initially had
the lowest rate of errors and were able to
work their way through the maze more
quickly than the other groups. But when
a group began to receive reinforcement
for the first time on Day 11, their error
rate dropped immediately. This shows
that the rats were learning the basic
structure of the maze even when they
weren’t being reinforced.
Continuous reinforcement
Reinforcement begins on Day 11
12 13 14
You Asked, Ivonne Answers
Do you create cognitive
maps just when you’re
This line of research highlights the importance of cognitive processes underlying behavior and suggests that learning can occur in the absence of reinforcement.
Because of the focus on cognition, this research approach conflicts with the views
of Skinner and some other 20th-century psychologists who adhered to a strict form
of behaviorism.
Many other studies have challenged Skinner’s views. Wolfgang Köhler’s (1925)
research on chimpanzees suggests that animals are capable of thinking through a
problem before taking action. He designed an experiment in which chimps were
presented with out-of-reach bananas, and showed that the animals were able to plan
a variety of banana-fetching strategies, including stacking crates to climb on. Here,
the chimps displayed insight, a sudden coming together of awareness of a situation,
leading to the solution of a problem (Chapter 7).
Today, most psychologists agree that both observable, measurable behaviors and
internal cognitive processes such as insight are necessary and complementary elements
of learning. Environmental factors have a powerful influence on behavior, as Pavlov,
Skinner, and others discovered, but every action can be traced to activity in the brain.
Understanding how cognitive processes translate to behaviors remains one of the great
challenges facing psychologists.
chemotherapy and surgery, and was back on the track within weeks of leaving
the hospital. Ivonne is currently preparing for the 2016 Paralympics, which are
scheduled to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. What keeps this amazing woman
going? Apart from the obvious reasons, such as love of sport, Ivonne derives great
satisfaction from bridging the gap between the able-bodied and disabled communities. Blind and sighted athletes have a common appreciation for exercise,
and training and racing unite them in a very human way. “We can have the same
dreams, the same goals, the same ambitions,” Ivonne says, “and [exercise] gets us
working together.” Peace of Mind
Ivonne does the triangle pose during
a visit to Queenstown, New Zealand.
Yoga helps develop the strength and
flexibility she needs for racing, and keeps
her grounded. G. John Schmidt/Courtesy Ivonne
IT KEEPS GETTING BETTER Wondering what became of Jeremy Lin
following “Linsanity”? After suffering a knee injury in the spring of 2012,
Jeremy was out of commission for the remainder of the season with the Knicks.
He then signed a deal with the Houston Rockets, had a good run with that
team for two seasons, and was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in the summer
of 2014. Jeremy has proven he can hold his own as a point guard in the NBA,
and we suspect he will continue stirring up “Linsanity” in the future.
Ivonne Mosquera-Schmidt continues to be an unstoppable force.
Between 2012 and 2014, she set three American records, running faster
than any totally blind woman in the 1,500-meter, the 3,000-meter, and
the 5,000-meter distances. She won a gold medal at the 2013 Paratriathlon World Championships, her second gold medal in this competition.
In the summer of 2014, Ivonne was diagnosed with a rare type of bladder cancer, a challenge she faced with incredible courage and optimism. She underwent
show what you know
1. You want to learn how to play basketball, so you watch videos
of Jeremy Lin executing plays. If your game improves as a
result, this would be considered an example of:
a. observational learning.
b. association.
c. prosocial behavior.
d. your cognitive map.
3. Although Skinner believed that reinforcement is the cause of
learning, there is robust evidence that reinforcement is not
always necessary. This comes from experiments studying:
b. negative reinforcement.
a. positive reinforcement.
d. stimulus generalization.
c. latent learning.
2. Bandura’s Bobo doll study shows us that observationall learning
results in a wide variety of learned behaviors. Describe several
types of behaviors you have learned by observing a model.
Check your answers in Appendix C.
su m mar y o f concepts
summary of concepts
LO 2 Explain what Pavlov’s studies teach us about classical
conditioning. (p. 176)
The dogs in Pavlov’s studies learned to associate various
stimuli with the anticipation of food, which resulted in
them salivating when the stimuli were introduced. He
discovered how such associations are learned, and referred
to this process as conditioning. Classical conditioning is
the process in which two stimuli become associated; once
this association has been established, an originally neutral
stimulus is conditioned to elicit an involuntary response.
LO 3 Identify the differences between the US, UR, CS, and
CR. (p. 178)
In classical conditioning, a neutral stimulus is something
in the environment that does not normally cause a relevant
automatic or reflexive response. This neutral stimulus is
repeatedly paired with an unconditioned stimulus (US)
that triggers an unconditioned response (UR). The neutral
stimulus thus becomes a conditioned stimulus (CS) that
the organism has learned to associate with the US. This CS
elicits a conditioned response (CR). The initial pairing of a
neutral stimulus with a US is called acquisition.
LO 4 Recognize and give examples of stimulus generalization and stimulus discrimination. (p. 179)
Once an association is forged between a CS and a CR,
the learner often responds to similar stimuli as if they are
the original CS. This is called stimulus generalization. For
example, someone who has been bitten by a small dog and
reacts with fear to all dogs, big and small, demonstrates
stimulus generalization. Stimulus discrimination is the
ability to differentiate between a CS and other stimuli sufficiently different from it. Someone who was bitten by a
small dog may be afraid of small dogs, but not large dogs,
thus demonstrating stimulus discrimination.
Animals and people show biological preparedness, meaning they are predisposed
to learn associations that have adaptive
value. For example, a conditioned taste
aversion is a form of classical conditioning that occurs when an organism learns
to associate the taste of a particular food or drink with
illness. Avoiding foods that induce sickness increases the
odds the organism will survive and reproduce, passing its
genes along to the next generation.
Learning is a relatively enduring change in behavior or
thinking that results from experiences. Organisms as simple as fish and as complex as humans have the ability to
learn. Learning is about creating associations. Sometimes
we associate two different stimuli (classical conditioning).
Other times we make connections between our behaviors
and their consequences (operant conditioning). We can also
learn by watching and imitating others (observational learning), creating a link between our behavior and the behavior
of others.
LO 5 Summarize how classical conditioning is dependent on the biology of the
organism. (p. 182)
LO 1 Define learning. (p. 174)
LO 9 Identify the differences between positive and negative
reinforcement. (p. 192)
LO 6 Describe the Little Albert study and explain how fear
can be learned. (p. 183)
Positive reinforcement refers to the process of applying
reinforcers that increase future occurrences of a targeted
behavior. The fish treats that Thorndike gave his cats are
examples of positive reinforcers (they increased the likelihood of the cats opening the latch). Behaviors can also
increase in response to negative reinforcement through the
process of taking away (or removing) something unpleasant. Putting on a seat belt in a car to stop an annoying beep
is an example of negative reinforcement (it increases the
likelihood of wearing a seat belt). Both positive and negative reinforcement increase desired behaviors.
LO 10 Distinguish between primary and secondary reinforcers. (p. 193)
The case study of Little Albert illustrates the conditioned
emotional response, an emotional reaction (fear in Little
Albert’s case) acquired via classical conditioning. When
Little Albert heard a loud bang, this was a US that elicited
a fear response (the UR). Through conditioning, the sight
of a rat became paired with the loud noise and went from
being a neutral stimulus to a CS. Little Albert’s fear of the
rat became a CR.
There are two major categories of reinforcers. Primary
reinforcers satisfy biological needs. Food, water, and physical contact are considered primary reinforcers. Secondary
reinforcers do not satisfy biological needs, but often derive
their power from their connection with primary reinforcers. Money is an example of a secondary reinforcer; we
know from experience that it gives us access to primary
reinforcers, such as food, a safe place to live, and perhaps
even the ability to attract desirable mates.
LO 7 Describe Thorndike’s law of effect. (p. 187)
LO 11 Describe continuous reinforcement and partial rein-
Thorndike’s law of effect was important in the development of operant conditioning, a type of learning in which
people or animals come to associate their voluntary actions
with consequences. The law of effect states that if a behavior is followed by a pleasurable outcome, that behavior is
more likely to reoccur.
LO 8 Explain shaping and the method of successive approximations. (p. 188)
Building on Thorndike’s law of effect and Watson’s behaviorism, Skinner used reinforcers to guide behavior to the
acquisition of a desired complex behavior, a process called
shaping. Successive approximations is a method of shaping
that uses reinforcers to condition a series of small steps that
gradually approach a target behavior. Animal behavior can
be shaped using successive approximations, but instinct
can interfere with the process. This instinctive drift is the
tendency for animals to revert to instinctual behaviors after
a behavior pattern has been learned.
forcement. (p. 194)
Reinforcers can be delivered on a constant basis (continuous
reinforcement) or intermittently (partial reinforcement).
Continuous reinforcement is generally more effective for
establishing a behavior, whereas learning through partial
reinforcement is more resistant to extinction (the partial
reinforcement effect) and useful for maintaining behavior.
LO 12 Name the schedules of reinforcement and give examples of each. (p. 196)
In a fixed-ratio schedule, reinforcement follows a predetermined number of desired responses or behaviors. In a
variable-ratio schedule, the number of desired responses
or behaviors that must occur before a reinforcer is given
changes across trials and is based on an average number
of responses to be reinforced. In a fixed-interval schedule,
the reinforcer comes after a preestablished interval of time
goes by; the response or behavior is only reinforced after
the given interval passes. In a variable-interval schedule, the
reinforcement comes after an interval of time passes, but
the length of the interval changes from trial to trial. The
lengths of these intervals are within a predetermined range
based on a desired average interval length.
LO 13 Explain how punishment differs from negative reinforcement. (p. 200)
In contrast to reinforcement, which makes a behavior
more likely to recur, the goal of punishment is to decrease
a behavior. Negative reinforcement differs from punishment because it strengthens a behavior that it follows by
removing something aversive or disagreeable. Punishment
decreases a behavior by instilling an association between a
behavior and some unwanted consequence (for example,
between stealing and going to jail, or between misbehaving
and a spanking).
LO 14 Summarize what Bandura’s classic Bobo doll study
teaches us about learning. (p. 204)
Observational learning can occur when we watch a model
demonstrate a behavior. Albert Bandura’s classic Bobo doll
experiment showed that children readily imitate aggression
when they see it modeled by adults. Studies suggest that
children and adults may be inclined to mimic aggressive
behaviors seen in TV shows, movies, video games, and on
the Internet. Observation of prosocial behaviors, on the
other hand, can encourage kindness, generosity, and forms
of behavior that benefit others.
LO 15 Describe latent learning and explain how cognition is
involved in learning. (p. 207)
Learning can occur without reinforcement. Edward
Tolman showed that rats could learn to navigate mazes
even when given no rewards. Their learning only became
apparent when it was needed (latent learning). The rats
were learning without reinforcement, just for the sake of
learning. This cognitive approach reminds us that measurable behaviors and cognitive processes are necessary
and complementary elements in the study of learning.
C HAP TE R 5 learning
su m mar y o f concepts
key terms
acquisition, p. 178
adaptive value, p. 182
behaviorism, p. 188
biological preparedness,
p. 182
classical conditioning, p. 178
cognitive map, p. 207
conditioned emotional
response, p. 183
conditioned response (CR),
p. 178
conditioned stimulus (CS),
p. 178
conditioned taste aversion,
p. 182
continuous reinforcement,
p. 194
extinction, p. 179
fixed-interval schedule,
p. 197
fixed-ratio schedule, p. 197
habituation, p. 174
higher order conditioning,
p. 180
instinctive drift, p. 189
latent learning, p. 207
law of effect, p. 188
learning, p. 174
model, p. 204
negative punishment,
p. 198
negative reinforcement,
p. 192
neutral stimulus (NS), p. 178
observational learning,
p. 204
operant conditioning,
p. 187
partial reinforcement,
p. 195
partial reinforcement effect,
p. 195
positive punishment,
p. 198
positive reinforcement,
p. 192
primary reinforcer, p. 193
prosocial behaviors, p. 206
punishment, p. 198
reinforcement, p. 188
reinforcers, p. 188
secondary reinforcer,
p. 193
shaping, p. 188
spontaneous recovery,
p. 180
stimulus, p. 174
stimulus discrimination,
p. 179
stimulus generalization,
p. 179
successive approximations,
p. 189
unconditioned response
(UR), p. 178
unconditioned stimulus
(US), p. 178
variable-interval schedule,
p. 197
variable-ratio schedule,
p. 197
are you ready?
1. One basic form of learning occurs during the process of
, which is evident when an organism does
not respond as strongly or as often to an event following
multiple exposures to it.
a. insight
b. habituation
c. classical conditioning
d. operant conditioning
5. Your first love wore a musky-scented perfume, and your
heart raced every time he or she appeared. Even now when
you smell that scent, your heart speeds up, suggesting the
scent is a(n)
a. unconditioned stimulus.
b. conditioned stimulus.
c. conditioned response.
d. unconditioned response.
2. Even trout can learn through operant conditioning, as evidenced by their
a. innate urge to get food.
b. reaction to an unconditioned stimulus.
c. ability to press a pendulum to get food.
d. reactions to predators.
6. Avoiding foods that induce sickness has
This taste aversion helps organisms survive.
a. adaptive value
b. stimulus generalization
c. stimulus discrimination
d. higher order conditioning
3. The behaviors learned with classical conditioning are
, whereas those learned with operant condi .
tioning are
a. involuntary; voluntary
b. voluntary; involuntary
c. voluntary; innate
d. involuntary; innate
7. Little Albert was an 11-month-old baby who originally had
no fear of rats. In an experiment conducted by Watson and
Rayner, he was classically conditioned to fear white rats
through the pairing of a loud noise with exposure to a rat.
His resulting fear is an example of a(n)
a. unconditioned stimulus.
b. operant conditioning.
c. conditioned emotional response.
d. biological preparedness.
4. Every time you open the pantry where dog food is stored,
your dog starts to salivate. His reaction is a(n)
a. unconditioned response.
b. conditioned response.
c. stimulus discrimination.
d. reaction based on observational learning.
indicates that if a behavior is followed by a
pleasurable outcome, it likely will be repeated.
a. Latent learning
b. Classical conditioning
c. Biological preparedness
d. The law of effect
9. Which of the following is an example of negative
a. working hard to get an A on a paper
b.a child getting more computer time when he finishes his
c.a dog whining in the morning, leading an owner to wake
up and take it outside
d.getting a speeding ticket and then not exceeding the
speed limit afterward
10. All your friends tell you that you look fabulous in your new
jeans, so you start wearing them all the time. This is an
example of
a. positive reinforcement.
b. negative reinforcement.
c. positive punishment.
d. negative punishment.
11. A child is reprimanded for misbehaving, but then she seems
to misbehave even more! This indicates that reprimanding
her was
a. negative punishment.
b. positive reinforcement.
c. positive punishment.
d. an unconditioned response.
12. In Bandura’s Bobo doll study, children who saw an adult attacking and shouting at the doll:
a. were more likely to display aggressive behavior.
b. were less likely to display aggressive behavior.
c. did not play with the Bobo doll at all.
d.began to cry when they saw the adult acting
13. According to research, children who watch TV programs
with violent role models are:
a. more likely to have parents with legal troubles.
b. less likely to get in trouble with the law as adults. decreased risk of abusing their spouses when they
become adults. increased risk of abusing their spouses when they
become adults.
14. Rats allowed to explore a maze, without getting reinforcers
until the 11th day of the experiment, subsequently behaved
in the maze as if they had been given reinforcers throughout the entire experiment. Their behavior is evidence of
a. latent learning.
b. observational learning.
c. classical conditioning.
d. operant conditioning.
15. Wolfgang Köhler’s research on chimpanzees suggests that
animals are capable of thinking through a problem before
taking action, and having a sudden coming together of
awareness of a situation, leading to the solution of a problem. This is called:
a. observational learning.
b. insight.
c. modeling.
d. higher order conditioning.
16. What is the difference between stimulus generalization and
stimulus discrimination?
17. Describe an example of how you have used shaping and
partial reinforcement to change your behavior. Which
schedule of reinforcement do you think you were using?
18. What is the difference between primary reinforcers and
secondary reinforcers? Give an example of each and explain
how they might be used to change a behavior.
19. How are punishment and negative reinforcement different?
Give examples of negative reinforcement, positive punishment, and negative punishment and explain how they aim
to change behavior.
20. Some studies show that watching violent films is associated with violent behaviors. Why are such studies unable to
show a cause-and-effect relationship between a film’s content and viewers’ behavior?
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